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.
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.