Archive for May, 2010

Continuing a series-long trend, the Yankees broke open a tight 2-1 pitcher’s duel by jumping on the Indians’ bullpen for six runs in the seventh inning. Over the course of the four game set, the Yankees and Indians combined to score 25 runs (17 for the Yankees and eight for the Indians) in the seventh inning, including at least one half inning of four runs or more in each game. The late inning outbursts belied the weakness of the Yankees’ and Indians’ bullpens, which entered the series ranked 12th and 13th in ERA among all American League teams.

Arod has let his bat doing the talking when opposing managers intentionally walk the bases loaded to face him (Photo: Getty Images).

Just as AJ Burnett did in yesterday’s game, Andy Pettitte removed the Yankees bullpen from the equation by turning in yet another strong outing. After surrendering a game tying solo homerun to Johnny Peralta in the second inning, Pettitte only allowed two more batters to reach base and retired the final 14 he faced before exiting after the Yankees broke the game open in the seventh. Pettitte not only had command of his fastball early, but also consistently threw all of his other pitches for strikes, including his changeup and curveball at an impressive rate of 70% and 55%, respectively. In total, Pettitte needed only 90 pitches, 58 of which were strikes, to breeze through the Indians lineup.

While Pettitte was mowing down the Indians’ lineup, the Yankees weren’t having much better luck with Indians’ starter Mitch Talbot. Two out RBI singles by Alex Rodriquez and Brett Gardner in the first and fourth innings, respectively, gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, but Talbot pitched well enough to keep the Indians in the game. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the combination of the seventh inning and their shaky bullpen once again proved volatile. After Derek Jeter singled with one out, Manny Acta lifted Talbot in favor of Rafael Perez, who promptly gave up a single to Curtis Granderson and then intentionally walked Mark Teixeira after a wild pitch moved both runners to second and third and made the count 3-0. With Arod coming to the plate, Acta opted for Chris Perez, but the wild righty fell behind 3-1 before leaving a 95mph fastball over the middle of the plate that Rodriguez drove over the centerfield fence for his 20th career grand slam. It was also the third time Arod has hit a grandslam after the opposing manager decided to load the bases by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira (in total, Arod is 5-5 with 18 RBIs in that scenario), so other managers would be wise to take notice.

The Yankees added two more runs in the seventh and then three more for good measure in the eighth, giving Chan Ho Park more than enough room to navigate through the Indians final two turns at the plate and close out the 11-2 victory.

By winning three of four against Cleveland, the Yankees did what they had to do. In a race as tight as the AL East, beating weaker teams at home becomes imperative. In fact, blowing such a big lead on Saturday still stands out more than the three victories that surrounded it. With Baltimore next into the Stadium, the Yankees have to continue to hone their killer extinct against teams that they should dominate. Granderson has already returned to the lineup, and Jorge Posada is not that far behind. Aside from the injury to Aceves, the Yankees are almost back to full strength. Despite a spate of injuries, the Yankees find themselves in decent shape on Memorial Day, the season’s traditional first milestone. As the pennant race heads into June, the Yankees need to start firing on all cylinders and reassert themselves in the division.

  • At 3:00PM, the Yankees joined the rest of baseball in holding a Memorial Day tribute. The timing couldn’t have been better as the top of the seventh inning ended at 2:58, meaning the tribute was immediately followed by the singing of God Bless America.
  • “I am not much of a night owl,” Andy Pettitte said with a smile in a postgame interview, referring to his success in day games. Coming into the game, Pettitte was 5-0 with a 1.08 ERA under the sun.
  • Pettitte’s 7-1 start to the season represents the best winning percentage in the first eight decisions of any season in his career.
  • Pettitte’s victory also tied him with another legendary Yankees lefty on the all-time wins list. With 236 victories, Pettitte and Whitey Ford rank 60th all-time. As a Yankee, however, Pettitte’s 199 wins still leave him well behind Ford for the franchise record.
  • Alex Rodriguez’ 7th inning grandslam was the 20th of his career, putting him behind only Manny Ramirez (21) and Lou Gehrig (23) on the all-time list.
  • Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 14, the last six of which have been multi-hit games.
  • The first of Derek Jeter’s two hits moved him past George Sisler for sole possession of 44th place on the all-time list.

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For six and a half innings, the Yankees seemed hung over after blowing a six run lead in yesterday’s game. The offense struggled mightily against Justin Masterson, who entered the game with an 11 game losing streak and a season ERA of 6.13, while the defense contributed to both Indians run scoring rallies. Luckily for the Yankees, however, the good AJ Burnett showed up and seemed unfazed by the events of the previous day.

Mark Teixeira's 8th inning HR powered the Yankees to a comeback victory over the Indians (Photo: AP).

From the first inning, Burnett used his entire arsenal to set up the Indians hitters. Burnett’s command of his four seamer on both sides of the plate allowed him to get ahead early, which left the Indians’ batters vulnerable to his sharp breaking curve and darting sinker.

In spite of pitching so well, Burnett found himself trailing for most of the ballgame. While the Yankees struggled to sustain any pressure against the embattled Masterson, Burnett’s defense allowed the Indians to build a 3-0 lead. In the top of the third, Brett Gardner eased up on a very catchable ball that landed in front of him for an RBI single. Then, in the top of the seventh, Derek Jeter’s throwing error not only provided Cleveland with an insurance run, but extended the inning for Jason Donald, who hit a ball to deep right that Nick Swisher played into a run scoring triple.

At that point, the Yankees could have used God Bless America as a lead-in to their Sunday night plans, but Nick Swisher’s lead-off single quickly offered a glimmer of hope. After Miranda grounded out to first and Gardner reached on an infield single, Girardi opted to pinch hit for Chad Moeller, but the strategy backfired when Francisco Cervelli struck out on a 1-2 sinker. Now with two outs, Jeter immediately fell behind 0-2. For the second time in the game, the Yankees were on the verge of stranding a runner at third, but the resurgent Captain got a sinker up in the zone and lined it into center field. The base hit scored Swisher and Gardner, who just slid home before Trevor Crowe’s strong throw, and knocked Masterson from the game.

With Granderson due up, Indians’ manager Manny Acta brought in lefty Tony Sipp, but just as it did on Friday, the move failed to bring any relief.  After Curtis Granderson doubled Jeter to third on a 2-0 fastball, Mark Teixeira battled back from a 0-2 hole and launched a 2-2 slider deep into the left field seats (which YES analyst Paul O’Neill dubbed State Farmville, after the advertising signage in that section).

After pitching so well from behind, Burnett came out for and breezed through the eighth inning, ending the day with his seventh and eight strikeouts. The Yankees then tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the eighth before Mariano Rivera slammed the door in the ninth with two classic Mo strikeouts as well as an athletic 1-3 putout that required the Yankees’ closer to hop over a broken bat, field a slow grounder and then fire to first.

After suffering such a brutal loss on Saturday, dropping today’s game would cast a cloud over most Yankee fans’ Memorial Day barbeques. Now, instead of a lost, long weekend, the Yankees look to win three of four from the tribe on Monday.

  • Mark Teixeira’s 8th inning home run was the 250th of his career. He also drove in his first runs via a hit in 11 games.
  • The Yankees win was the 300th of Joe Girardi’s managerial career.
  • Robinson Cano recorded his 23rd multi-hit game, one behind Ichiro Suzuki for most in the major leagues.
  • Lucky 7th: So far in the series, the Indians and Yankees have combined to score 19 runs in the seventh inning.

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The outcome of this afternoon’s game took a momentary backseat in the third inning when Indians starter David Huff was struck just over the left ear by an Alex Rodriguez line drive. The impact off Huff’s head was so severe that the ball wound up landing in shallow right field for an RBI double. Immediately upon being struck, Huff dropped to the ground and lay prone while several Yankees rounded the bases. The game action seemed academic, however, and once time was called players from both teams congregated around the trainers, who attended to the young Indians’ lefty. Eventually, Huff was taken off the field on a motorized stretcher, but was able to give a thumbs up to the cheering crowd. 

David Huff lies motionless on the mound after being struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Alex Rodriguez (Photo: The Canadian Press).


The Yankees tacked on another run in the third to increase their lead to 3-0, but the drama of the situation and long delay seemed to have an impact on Sabathia. After cruising through the first three frames with only 31 pitches, Sabathia would need exactly that amount to get through just the fourth inning. In the inning, Sabathia’s fast ball command abandoned him, and with it, his willingness to throw it. On successive at bats to Mark Grudzielanek Matt LaPorta, Sabathia surrendered an RBI single and two run double on a slider and change up, respectively. 

After giving up the lead, the Yankees quickly responded with six more runs in their half of the fourth, thanks mostly to the wildness of Aaron Laffey, who walked three straight batters and hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch to force in two runs. Cano then doubled home another pair of runs before Laffey was lifted from the game after throwing 38 pitches in the inning. Francisco Cervelli capped off the rally with a seeing eye single up the middle that knocked in two more runs. 

After the interminable fourth inning, the rest of the game proceeded at a pace that only Joe West could appreciate. C.C. Sabathia was never able to find his rhythm, but did get through six innings before handing off to the bullpen what seemed like a very safe 10-5 lead. 

The top of the seventh inning was complicated when David Robertson had to leave the game after two batters because of stiffness in his lower back. From that point forward, Joe Girardi decided to play his usual late inning game of bullpen roulette. After one batter a piece, Girardi burned through Sergio Mitre and then Damaso Marte before settling on Joba Chamberlain to record the final out in the inning. Chamberlain would go on to finish off the seventh, but not before allowing both inherited runners to score along with four additional runs of his own. By the time the smoke had cleared, the Indians scored seven runs and turned what had been a laugher into a comedy of errors for the Yankees. 

The Indians increased their lead to 13-10 in the eighth when Russell Branyan homered off Chad Gaudin, and then held on in the ninth as the Yankees tried one last attempt to mount a comeback off Kerry Wood. As they often do, the Yankees were able to bring the tying run to the plate, but Nick Swisher whiffed on a Wood fastball to end the game and seal the deal on a monumental collapse. 

Just when it seemed as if the offense was starting to turn the corner, the bullpen has now emerged as a major hole for the Yankees.  Chamberlain has now played an instrumental role in blowing three games over the last two weeks, including two leads of four runs or more. What’s more, he has failed to develop into the reliable “8th inning” guy that Girardi envisioned, and the Yankees may now need to revisit the decision to entrust the late innings to their erratic, under-achieving righty.

Meanwhile, the injury to Robertson only further clouds the picture  as no other reliever aside from Mariano has shown signs of being able to provide consistent, quality innings out of the pen. Making matters worse is Girardi’s inability to realize that he simply can not burn through relievers. Instead of allowing one to get on a roll, Girardi keeps shuffling through the entire bullpen, ensuring that he will eventually find the bullet in the chamber. (more…)

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Winless in his last four starts, C.C. Sabathia looks to get back on track against his old team, even if most of the faces in the uniform wont be familiar.

A lot has changed for the Indians since Sabathia departed in the middle of 2008, so much so that he will face almost as many ex-Yankee teammates in today’s lineup as those he played with in Cleveland. Shelly Duncan, who was always a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium, will bat fifth in the Indians lineup, which speaks volumes about how depleted the Indians once powerful offense has become. Interestingly, Mike Redmond is not in the starting lineup despite being 13-26 against Sabathia. Although it is a day game after a night game and Redmond was yesterday’s catcher, it seems a little shortsighted to pass up on this favorable matchup.

Indians’ lefty David Huff has never faced the Yankees as a starter, so the Yankees will all be getting their first look at him. Joe Girardi’s lineup includes the return of Nick Swisher to the two-hole, which seems as if it will be a permanent arrangement with a southpaw on the mound. Marcus Thames also gets the nod at DH, a position that seems to have evolved into a straight platoon between him and Juan Miranda. Also, with the quick turnaround, Girardi has decided to ease Curtis Granderson into a full time role by giving him the game off in favor of Kevin Russo.

vs. David Huff PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Marcus Thames DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Kevin Russo LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
vs. CC Sabathia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Trevor Crowe CF 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Shin-Soo Choo RF 6 0.200 0.333 0.200 0 0
Austin Kearns LF 15 0.133 0.133 0.200 0 0
Johnny Peralta 3B 6 0.200 0.333 0.400 0 0
Shelley Duncan DH 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Grudzielanek 2B 34 0.300 0.364 0.300 0 4
Matt LaPorta 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Lou Marson C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jason Donald SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 66 0.217 0.273 0.250 0 4
Yankees vs. Indians
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 1-0 NYY: 5-3 CLE: 4-3 NYY: 1086-864

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Larry MacPhail made a significant impact in his brief tenure with the Yankees.

World War II was a transitional period in Yankee history. From 1936 to 1943, the Yankees won six World Series as well as the pennant in all but one season. However, the full outbreak of war, and the subsequent draft and enlistment of more than 350 major league ballplayers, significantly altered the landscape of the game. So, while America was helping to win a word war, the Yankees were treading water in the American League, finishing six games off the lead in both 1944 and 1945.

By 1946, World War II was over and the country was desperate for a return to normalcy. A big part of that effort included baseball, and a big part of baseball involved the Yankees. However, things were far from normal for the Yankees in 1946. Over the winter, the team had been sold by the estate of long-time owner Jacob Ruppert, who had passed away in 1939, to a trio of new owners: Del Webb, Dan Topping and veteran business/baseball man Larry McPhail. In his book Yankees Century, author Glenn Stout referred to McPhail as a cross between Frank Farrell (for his drinking and carousing), Bill Veeck (for his “creative” promotions) and George Steinbrenner (for his meddlesome bullying). Such a personality was a major break from the Yankees more dignified, family approach that put winning above all else. With McPhail as both a co-owner and general manager, however, the team was now much more beholden to its bottom line.

The Yankees won their fair share of games during the 1946 season, but simply couldn’t keep up with the powerhouse Boston Red Sox. Still, the team drew an astounding 2.3 million fans, which more than doubled its previous record attendance and nearly tripled the number of fans who turned out during the last year of the war. Although the season wasn’t a success by the Yankees’ old standards, it was cork popping by MacPhail’s new criteria.

In addition to a nation that was hungry for baseball, MacPhail’s frequent promotions also helped drive fans to the ballpark. On May 28, 1946, one of the larger crowds of the 1946 season turned out for one such novelty: night baseball. Way back in 1935, MacPhail first introduced baseball under the lights while with the Cincinnati Reds, but the more traditional Yankees had resisted the trend, even despite the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who looked at night baseball as a reward for those working long hours during the day to support the war effort.

On a Tuesday no less, nearly 50,000 fans poured through the turnstiles to witness the historic occasion of night baseball at Yankee Stadium, which would be the first of 14 scheduled night games that season. The Yankees wound up losing the contest 2-1 to the Washington Senators, but by all accounts (especially McPhail’s adding machine), the night and the lights were a success.

Night baseball was the brainchild of MacPhail.

Larry MacPhail outdid himself with the finest lighting plant in baseball floodlights, but the Yankees still couldn’t see [Dutch] Leonard’s flitting ‘dipsy doodles’” – AP, May 29, 1946

Interestingly, the May 28 game against the Senators was also Bill Dickey’s debut as Yankee manager. Dickey took control of the club after Joe McCarthy, who had managed the team to seven championships since 1931, resigned because of health concerns. The real problem, however, was too much drinking, and at least part of that was the result of too much meddling by Larry MacPhail. Dickey himself would wind up becoming fed up with MacPhail and resign before the end of the 1946 season, giving way to Johnny Neun, who also parted company with the Yankees so he could become manager of the Cincinnati Reds. (more…)

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The day after Javier Vazquez turned back into a pumpkin probably isn’t the best time to have a discussion of the “Hughes Rules”, but according to Andrew Marchand, that’s exactly what the Yankees have been doing.

In his report at ESPNNewYork, Marchand stated that the Yankees are planning to lighten Phil Hughes workload over the next six weeks in an attempt to limit the young right hander’s innings to about 175 for the season. Although not explicitly defined by the Yankees, the Hughes plan will seek to be less intrusive than the Joba Rules, which took on a life of their own and seemed to overwhelm the pitcher with their uncertainty. The biggest break with the Joba rules, however, seems to be the Yankees will now instead focus more on the number of pitches thrown by Hughes.

Some innings are more stressful than others,” Eiland said. “You can throw five innings and 100 pitches and it can really take its toll on you because you are really laboring through that or you can throw seven innings and 100 pitches. It is less pitches in an inning and you are not laboring as much. The more you have to labor, the more stress it puts on your arm.” – Dave Eiland, speaking to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com

Because Hughes has pitched so well, there will undoubtedly be a temptation to not skip many of his starts, especially if Javier Vazquez’ outing against the Twins represents a setback instead of a blip. Also, there will likely be some backlash against any limitations on Hughes after the Joba Rules turned out to be such a fiasco. Still, the Yankees would be wise to exercise restraint with their talented young starter, even it means compromising their chances in 2010.

Could the "Hughes Rules" have the Yankees young righty throwing more pitches in the bullpen and fewer from the mound?

Looking to the future is not something the Yankees usually make a priority, but under Brian Cashman, the team has made a point of protecting young pitchers. Although they may not have always taken the best approach, the intentions are noble. Having said that, if Hughes is forced to curtail his 2010 campaign, and the Yankees fail to make the playoffs as a result, there will be some blame to go around.

When Hughes was demoted to the bullpen, Joe Girardi used him almost exclusively as a short reliever. Although very effective in that role, Hughes only wound up compiling 86 major league innings (109 2/3 including the minors and playoffs). Coming off a 2008 campaign with 79 2/3 combined innings, the Yankees had more room to stretch Hughes out, but squandered that opportunity. Had they had more foresight last season, the limits on Hughes this season would likely be less stringent. It’s too late to make up for lost time, so, if Hughes is forced to take a breather, and the Yankees suffer as a result, the team may wind up regretting how it handled both Hughes and Joba in 2009.

Phil Hughes’ Career Workload (Innings)

Year Age MLB Post Season MiLB Total
2004 18 0 0 5 5
2005 19 0 0 86 2/3 86 2/3
2006 20 0 0 146 146
2007 21 72 2/3 5 2/3 37 2/3 116
2008 22 34 0 35 2/3 69 2/3
2009 23 86 4 2/3 19 1/3 110
2010 24 49 2/3 0 0 49 2/3

Phil Hughes’ Major League Pitch Count (regular season only)

Year Age PA Pit Pit/PA
2007 21 306 1235 4.04
2008 22 157 630 4.01
2009 23 351 1454 4.14
2010 24 197 839 4.26

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The Yankees look for the sweep behind the resurgent Javier Vazquez, who is making his first consecutive turn in the rotation since May 1. Vazquez is also starting despite suffering a right finger contusion while trying to bunt in the sixth inning of his last start against the Mets. The Twins’ lefty power laden lineup will be Vazquez’ biggest test since being skipped in the rotation. If the righty can navigate through hitters like Mauer, Morneau and Kubell, he very well may have turned the page, giving the Yankees a starting staff that is five members deep.

With Brett Gardner restored to the second slot, Girardi has reversed the lineup change that helped the Yankees win last night’s games. Regardless, the Yankees will need the middle of the order to pick up the pace, especially Mark Teixeira. In Teixeira’s favor tonight is the presence of Twins starter Nick Blackburn, against whom the Yankee first baseman has a lofty .800 batting average (8 for 10).

vs. Nick Blackburn PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 16 0.364 0.533 0.636 1 3
Brett Gardner CF 8 0.250 0.250 0.250 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 11 0.800 0.818 1.200 1 6
Alex Rodriguez 3B 12 0.250 0.250 0.500 1 3
Robinson Cano 2B 11 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 15 0.250 0.400 0.333 0 2
Juan Miranda DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Kevin Russo LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 75 0.303 0.373 0.470 3 14
Yankees vs. Twins
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 4-1 NYY: 7-0 NYY: 6-4 NYY: 1105-765

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The struggling Yankees offense needs Mark Teixeira to regain his lefty swing.

After struggling in April, as he does each season, Mark Teixeira seemed to turn the corner as soon as the calendar flipped to May. In the first half of the month, Teixeira posted a line of .333/.406/.649 with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs in 14 games from May 1 to May 15. Since that time, however, the Yankee first baseman has fallen back into a deep slumber, posting a line of .186/.255/.209 over the next 10 games.

The strange thing about Teixeira’s slump is there doesn’t seem to be any identifiable reason for it. Unlike Derek Jeter, whose recent slump was characterized by an increased rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone and a corresponding decline in line drive percentage, Teixeira’s swing and contact rates have remained nearly identical to last season. Yet, for some reason, his BABIP has plummeted all the way to .226, which is well below his career rate of .305.

Mark Teixeira Out of Zone LD% GB:FB BB% K% Pit/PA BABIP
2010 21.4% 18.8% 0.89 13.5% 20.4% 4.0% 0.226
2009 21.7% 19.8% 0.83 11.5% 18.7% 3.9% 0.302

So, is luck the reason for Teixeira’s early season struggles? Although that may be part of the explanation, it does seem as if some other dynamic is at play. What stands out most is Teixeira’s struggles as a left handed batter. Not only is his OPS as a lefty a full 200 points lower than from the right side (.627 vs. 831), but his BABIP from the port side has also declined by a larger percentage compared to last year’s rates (27% from the left side versus 19% from the right side).

as LHB 0.187 0.310 0.317 0.293 0.213
as RHB 0.259 0.348 0.483 0.360 0.250

Perhaps even more significant, fly balls hit to right field by Teixeira as a lefty are simply not leaving the park. Last year, 47.1% of fly balls pulled to right went for HRs, but this year, that rate has fallen drastically to 25% (his percentage as a righty pull hitter has actually increased from 40% to 50%).  Clearly, Teixeira’s struggles from the left side have led to the depth and duration of his nearly season long slump. But, why has his lefty stroke alluded him for so long?

Mark Teixeira 2010 2009
as LHB 8.9% 18.8%
to Right Field 25.0% 47.1%
as RHB 17.6% 15.8%
to Left Field 50.0% 40.0%


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With the score tied 2-2, Andy Pettitte was up to his neck in a jam that wasn’t his doing. After Brett Gardner failed to make a running catch in the right center gap and Arod erred on a subsequent bunt attempt, Pettitte faced a first and third situation with no outs. Orlando Hudson next hit a line drive that was ticketed for centerfield, but Pettitte threw up his glove at the last second and snagged the drive. With disaster temporarily averted, Pettitte then had to face the reigning MVP Joe Mauer. Limiting the damage seemed to be the best case scenario, especially after Pettitte fell behind in the count 3-1, but Mauer jumped on a cutter just off the plate and hit a scorching groundball to short stop that Jeter and Cano turned into a double play.

Nick Swisher rounds third base after his ninth inning home run gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead (Photo:AP).

After being granted a reprieve, the Yankees finally broke the deadlock when Nick Swisher belted a John Rauch changeup deep into the last row of the seats in the right field pavilion. Now with the lead, Joe Girardi once again summoned his closer. Earlier, in the suspended game, Mariano Rivera struggled a bit with his command, but in the evening tilt, he was on his game. Three ground balls later and the Yankees were exchanging high fives for the second time in one day.

Andy Pettitte was the reason the Yankees were able to hang close in yet another game in which their offense was dormant. After giving up a first inning run, Pettitte shut the Twins down until the seventh, during which time the Yankees built a 2-1 lead. In the fourth inning, Francisco Cervelli just beat out an attempted double play that would have ended the inning. Cervelli and the Yankees were rewarded for that hustle moments later when Kevin Russo’s double into the left field corner plated the tying run. In the sixth, the Yankees took their first lead of the game, and it was the bottom of the lineup that came through once again. With two outs, Russo, who has been in the middle of many a Yankee rally since being recalled from the minors, singled to extend the inning and then scored on Brett Gardner’s triple to right.

The Twins eventually tied the game in the bottom of seventh when long-time Pettitte nemesis Delmon Young doubled home Michael Cuddyer, whose single snapped a string of eight batters retired in a row. Pettitte quickly recovered from the blow to preserve the tie with a pitch count low enough to warrant coming out for the eighth inning, which set the stage for the climatic battle against Mauer.

After losing five of seven last week, two quick wins over the first place Twins was a much needed shot in the arm for the Yankees. Even more encouraging were the two strong starts by Pettitte and Burnett as well as a return to normalcy in the backend of the bullpen. However, the offense remains the 800 pound gorilla. The schedule does get easier after tomorrow’s series finale, but the Yankees still need the offense to pick-up, especially Mark Teixeira, whose slump has had a ripple effect on the entire lineup. With the AL East race tightening, the Yankees can’t afford to fall back into a funk. If they can avoid doing so, we may look back on this game, and Pettitte’s showdown with Mauer, as a turning point.

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Victories have been few and far between for the Yankees of late, so needing a full day to polish off a win seems strangely appropriate.

Derek Jeter receives congratulations from Brett Gardner after hitting a homerun in the sixth inning. Jeter's HR provided the margin of victory in a 1-0 win (Photo: The Canadian Press).

After playing five scoreless innings on Tuesday night, Derek Jeter belted a deep blast over the centerfield field wall to give the Yankees an immediate 1-0 lead upon resumption of the game. Then, in the bottom of the inning, Jeter’s defense helped preserve the lead when he fielded a ground ball deep in the hole and used his patented jump throw to nab Delmon Young with runners on second and third.

Aside from Jeter, the Yankee bullpen also played a major role in the game. David Robertson not only recorded 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball, but also endured a Joe Mauer line drive off his back that richoted into the glove of Alex Rodriguez for an out. With two outs in the seventh, Robertson eventually gave way to Joba Chamberlain, who also navigated the middle of the Twins lineup in the eighth. The highlight of that inning was a high fastball that Joba blew by Justin Morneau for a strikeout.

In the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera was able to close out the victory for AJ Burnett, who pulled off the rare feat of getting a win on a day in which he didn’t pitch. It wasn’t easy for Mo, however. For the fourth straight outing, Rivera seemed to struggle with his command, and even lowered his head after letting go of a 3-2 cutter that hung in the zone to JJ Hardy. Off the bat, it looked as if Hardy had tied the game, but the ballpark held the blast and Kevin Russo ran it down for an out. Rivera then walked Thome, as he had done in his last blown save, but rebounded to induce a double play from Denard Span.

The strong outings by Robertson and Chamberlain were particularly important to see because the Yankees may be without jack-of-all-trades Alfredo Aceves for an extended period of time. Even if both pitchers round into form, however, the Yankees will still need Mariano to regain  his form if they are going to defend their championship. In addition, the Yankees need bats like Teixeira, Cano and Swisher to awaken because the Yankees pitchers have been showing signs of cracking under the relative lack of support.

The Yankees send Andy Pettitte to the mound in the “second” game of the day, but probably can’t expect to win another low scoring affair. They will not only need Pettitte to give them length, especially with Robertson likely unavailable for the evening, but the lineup needs to take advantage of its scoring opportunities and jump out to an early lead.

Seasons can turn on a dime in baseball, so two road victories against a quality team like the Twins could go a long way toward snapping the Yankees out of their funk. The likes of Morneau and Mauer stand in that way, however, so a “twin killing” won’t come easy

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