One last time at the Metrodome …
Pitching: RHP Alfredo Aceves (5-1, 2.02).
Pitching: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-8, 5.49).
TIME/TV: 1:10 p.m., YES.
STATE OF THE ‘STRIPES: The Yankees have won two straight, five of six and 12 of 14 as they try for the series sweep. They trail the Red Sox by a game in the AL East but have the third-best record in baseball.
TWIN PEAKS: The Yankees are 6-0 against the Twins this season, outscoring them 35-21. They have won 17 of 23 against the Twins dating back to the start of the 2007 season.
FEELING MINNESOTA: The Yankees are 76-64 at the Metrodome. This is the final time they will play here in the regular season as the Twins are set to open a new, open-air (gulp) downtown ballpark in April.
DOME RANGER: Alex Rodriguez has hit .367 at the Metrodome (86 of 234) with 21 homers and 54 RBI.
MINNY MAULERS: Mark Teixeira is 13 of 25 with 10 RBI against the Twins this season. Derek Jeter is 44 of 118 (.373) with 26 runs scored and 14 extra-base hits in his 28 games against the Twins dating back to the start of the 2006 season.
ACE ON THE HILL: Aceves is starting for the first time in the majors since last Sept. 28 at Boston, a game the Yankees won 19-8. He is 1-0, 2,74 in four career starts. As a reliever, he was 2-0, 0.96 with a save in his last 11 appearances. He faced the Twins twice this season out of the bullpen, pitching two perfect innings and getting two victories.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Yankees are 24-18 away from the Bronx this season. They have won seven straight on the road and have not trailed in their last 58 innings on the road dating back to June 24.
G.O.A.T: Mariano Rivera’s last 12 appearances (starting June 7) have been insane. 12.2 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 15 strikeouts. That’s an 0.71 ERA as opponents are hitting .071.
PHIL OF THE FUTURE: Phil Hughes has made 11 appearances in relief this season. His line: 15.2 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 16 strikeouts.
TEAM TRENDS: The Yankees are 34-7 when they score first. … 33-1 when leading after six innings. … 12-10 in one-run games.
GRITTY AND GUTTY (AND GREAT?): Brett Gardner is hitting .333 (36 of 108) in his last 44 games with 13 RBI. He is 4-9 with four RBI in this series.
THIS TIME LAST SEASON: The Yankees were 45-40 and 7.5 games back after 85 games last season.
THEY’RE HOT: Hideki Matsui is 11 of his last 25 with six extra-base hits and 11 RBI. … Jorge Posada is 9 of his last 19 with five RBI. … Nick Swisher is 6 of his last 16 with five RBI.
LEFTY LOVERS: The Yankees are 16-9 against left-handed starters this season. They are hitting .295 (second in the majors) against LHPs with a .380 OBP and a .503 SLG.
NO WHIFFS: The Yankees did not strike out on Wednesday night. That is the first time that has happened since last July 2 against Texas.
DAMASO MARTE UPDATE: Word is he will throw batting practice in Tampa on Saturday. He has been there for roughly two months with a sore shoulder.
Back with more later.
UPDATE, 12:00 p.m.: Johnny Damon (knee, calf) is getting a day off. … Yes, Posada is catching a noon game after a night game. Girardi said he would get one day off in Anaheim. Betcha anything it’s tomorrow when Joba starts. … Neither team took BP today. … A-Rod will DH today then start at third over the weekend against the Angels.
UPDATE, 12:04 p.m.: Here is Joe Girardi’s pre-game press conference. He talked about Aceves, the center fielders and assorted other stuff. It’s about seven minutes long:
UPDATE, 12:34 p.m.: Just took a little walk around the Metrodome. Got the hand-carved turkey sandwich and Caesar salad combo (a bargain at $7.25) and marveled at how many Yankees fans I saw. So many people in Jeter jerseys and NY caps. Even in Minnesota.
Thanks also to all the blog readers who have stopped by the press box to say hello. Awfully nice of you.
UPDATE, 1:00 p.m.: The Twins just had five fans dressed as fish race around the faces. Team mascot T.C. The Bear (“the natural enemy of fish”) knocked down a few of the participants. Gotta love the Twins.
UPDATE, 1:09 p.m.: Liriano warming up to Vertigo by U2.
UPDATE, 1:10 p.m.: We are underway, right on time at 1:10 p.m. Good-sized crowd here with a lot of camp groups. Hope you can listen or watch wherever you are.
Lots of update love today.
UPDATE, 1:22 p.m.: The people here love their local hero, Joe Mauer. That single puts him at .391.
UPDATE, 1:35 p.m.: Based loaded and no outs for Clutchy Cabrera. Liriano has lost the strike zone.
UPDATE, 1:39 p.m.: The Melkman pops to right. But Cody Ransom walks (Chris Russo voice: “You can’t be walking Cody Ransom in that spot!) Meanwhile Liriano is closing in on 50 pitches already.
UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: Gardner did what he needed to do and hit the ball on the ground. 2-0 Yankees.
Then Jeter makes it hurt with a bloop RBI single. 3-0 and the Twins must be wondering what they need to do to beat this team.
UPDATE, 1:47 p.m.: Once Jeter got picked off there, Gardner had to go to the plate. I wonder if they did that on purpose?
That goes as a caught stealing for Brett.
UPDATE, 1:52 p.m.: Um, Ace, an 0-2 home run and a walk is not how you pitch with a 3-0 lead.
UPDATE, 1:58 p.m.: In the end, he’s Cody Ransom. No excuse whatsoever with the backup catcher chugging down the line. Ransom appeared to have trouble getting the ball out of his glove.
3-2 as the Twins have been invited right back into the game.
UPDATE, 2:18 p.m.: Another knock for Posada. He’s 11 of his last 21.
UPDATE, 2:19 p.m.: Cano is 29 of 65 (.446) when he connects on the first pitch. How crazy is that?
UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: OK, quit whining about Ransom. That’s two RBI.
UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.: GGBG is 5 of 11 with six RBI in the series.
By the way, good people, witness the downfall of Liriano and know well the Verducci Effect. This is what happens when you abuse young pitchers. They need surgery and then they stink.
UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: They said Aceves could go 65 and that’s what he gave them on the button.
He leaves with a 5-2 lead but with the bases loaded and one out. David Robertson has some work to do here.
UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: Robertson fans Punto and then walks Span on four pitches. Do not let Joe Mauer get to the plate.
UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Repeat, do not let Joe Mauer get to the plate.
UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Now you’ve done it. Tolbert walks on five pitches. Another run in. 5-4 Yankees and Mauer at the dish with the bases loaded.
This is trouble with a capital T.
My Dave Robertson faith is being tested here.
UPDATE, 2:46 p.m.: You knew Mauer would take a strike. 2-1 count. Go time now.
UPDATE, 2:48 p.m.: So you walk Span and Tolbert and throw strikes to Mauer? Nonetheless, 5-4 Yankees.
The line for Aceves: 3.1 4 4 3 1 2.
UPDATE, 2:53 p.m.: I don’t believe what I just saw … Mark Teixeira homered.
OK, we kid. But that did snap a career-long streak of 95 ABs without a dinger. Our long national nightmare is over.
UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: Only one of the last 10 Minnesota batters has put the ball in play. HBP, 4 Ks, 4 BBs, one 4-3.
UPDATE, 3:16 p.m.: That’s it for the Ghost of Francisco Liriano. 5.1 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts. 105 pitches, 62 strikes and he’s responsible for Cabrera at second base.
A loss today would leave him at 4-9. His ERA is at 5.47.
UPDATE, 3:28 p.m.: Nice work by Albaladejo. Were I the official scorer, I’d give him the win instead of Robertson. Yanks 3-2 as we go to the seventh.
Mr. Hughes, Mr. Coke, duty calls.
UPDATE, 3:41 p.m.: Just remember, Brian Bruney is the Eight Inning Guy. … If it’s 8-0 maybe.
Girardi has used Coke and Hughes, playing the matchup game effectively. Yankees need to get seven outs for a sweep. Mr. Rivera tossed only 11 pitches last night, so he should be good to go.
UPDATE, 3:47 p.m.: They were playing Livin’ On A Prayer between innings and T.C. The Bear was pumping his fist and acting like he was singing along. Funny stuff.
Ty Kepner of the Times just got a photo snapped with T.C.
UPDATE, 4:03 p.m.: It’ll be Phil Franchise in the eighth inning. Mo just standing there for now.
UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: Phil Franchise, four more outs in relief. 17 innings, 2 runs, 18 Ks. Can’t beat that.
Bullpen so far today: 4.2 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.
Going 7-0 against the Twins would be very impressive.
UPDATE, 4:22 p.m.: We go to the ninth and Rivera.
UPDATE, 4:26 p.m.: Hmm, Mo vs. Mauer with a runner on in a 6-4 game. Very interesting.
UPDATE, 4:29 p.m.: Or not so interesting as he grounds to first. Yankees win 6-4. Save No. 23 for the Sandman and a sweep for the Pinstripes. Albaladejo rightfully declared the winner.
Back later with some reaction. 5.2 scoreless innings for the bullpen. Prime time stuff.