Pitching: LHP CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.37 regular season)
Pitching: LHP Brian Duensing (5-2, 3.64 ERA regular season)
TIME/TV: 6:07 p.m., TBS
WEATHER: October-ish. Cloudy and cool. Forecast calls for temps in the 50s tonight and windy conditions. Gusts could get up to 40 mph (though probably only towards right field and when Johnny Damon is up). The flags on top of the stadium are whipping around the stadium very, very loudly. Check out the full forecast here.
STATE OF THE STRIPES: No better or worse than anyone else since everyone is 11 wins from a title today. The Yankees did, however, get to sleep in their own beds last night while the Twins were flying east in the wee hours, so they’re certainly more rested than their opponents.
CC’S NEW BEGINNING: As good as Sabathia has been in the regular season during his career, the postseason hasn’t been nearly as productive. He’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five playoff starts and has a 10.93 ERA in losing the last three. He does have good career numbers against the Twins, though: 9-4, 1.91 ERA in his last 13 starts.
EYES ON ALEX: Alex Rodriguez has done all the right things in staying out of the spotlight this season but he won’t be able to avoid the focus now. A-Rod’s October struggles are well-documented (one homer, one RBI, 35 LOB in his last 16 playoff games) but his best Yankees postseason series was against Minnesota in 2004: 8-for-19 (.421) with 3 RBI.
NUMBERS CAN BE MISLEADING: Yes, the Yankees swept seven games from the Twins during the regular season but it wasn’t exactly domination: Four of the seven were one-run games, six of the seven were two-run games and two of the seven were extra innings. During a May series at the Stadium in the Bronx, the Yankees won three of four games with walk-off hits.
TWINKIE FILLING: The Twins won 17 of 21 to close a seven-game deficit in the final month of the season and beat out the Tigers for their fifth division title in eight years. They also won an epic 12-inning tiebreaker on Tuesday night, using six relievers over the final seven innings including star closer Joe Nathan for 1 2/3 innings.
OLD FRIENDS: Duensing was a college teammate of Joba Chamberlain’s at Nebraska. The Yankees only encounter with Duensing came in July, in his third career appearance. Pitching in relief, he allowed four runs, two hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings of a 10-2 loss. Duensing was 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his nine starts this year.
IF THERE WERE WALK-TO-THE-PLATE MUSIC IN REAL LIFE, TODAY’S WOULD BE: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor. Is there a better pre-game song out there?
Back with much, much, much more later on.
UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: First things first: It’s really windy here. Like, loud windy – flags hitting the facade, paper blowing everywhere. Joe Girardi was asked what he thought about it affecting the game and he basically said he didn’t know. He’s just happy it’s not frigid.
Here’s his press conference audio.
UPDATE, 2:47 p.m.: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire just announced that their Game 3 starter is now TBA. Could be Carl Pavano, but he also mentioned Scott Baker as a possibility.
UPDATE, 2:55 p.m.: Here’s a picture I took of the flags above Yankee Stadium. Not a good shot, but you can see those things blowing out to right. It’s really windy here. This is Chad posting, so I don’t have as much experience in this park as some other folks, but I’m surprised at just how noticeable it is. The press box is open, and those flags are pretty loud flapping in the wind.
UPDATE, 3:19 p.m.: The Yankees are on the field and, at this moment, the captain, Derek Jeter, is in the cage. Jeter is wearing a gray hooded Yankees sweatshirt and everyone is in sleeves. It could get chilly tonight.
UPDATE, 3:23 p.m.: Don’t forget to check out John Flaherty’s analysis of the pitching match-up tonight. It’s in the post below or you can click here to go directly. Some interesting stuff to watch for in there.
UPDATE, 3:54 p.m.: I meant to mention it before, but I think the Yankees made the right call in taking Gaudin on the first-round roster. Girardi confirmed that they look at Gaudin as a primary long man, which indicates that Joba Chamberlain is an option for one-inning, big-spot duty.
UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: Nearly 200 comments and we’re two hours from game time. You guys are coming to play tonight. Think we’ll need three posts?
UPDATE, 4:11 p.m.: Yankees are coming off the field, Twins are coming on. Girardi is standing off to the side of the batting cage doing his pregame interview with John Sterling.
UPDATE, 4:25 p.m.: Not a ton of people in the stands but that’s understandable given the time. Monument Park, on the other hand, looks absolutely packed. BTW, for those who have asked: Yes, I think Robertson is/should be ahead of Chamberlain in the bullpen pecking order; and yes, I will break up the game post if the comments become unmanageable.
UPDATE, 5:06 p.m.: The winds have (sort of) died down a little, which is to say that the flags on top of the stadium are only half-way extended instead of blown straight out. Twins are off the field and the grounds crew is raking. We’re an hour from first pitch.
UPDATE: 5:10 p.m.: Chad here. Just got back from the field where A.J. Burnett spoke briefly about the Molina/Posada decision. “It’s making me out to be the bad guy,” Burnett said. The short version is that Burnett said he’s gone to Joe Girardi in the past and told him it doesn’t matter which catcher he throws to. He’s comfortable with either one. Burnett said that when has a good game, it’s because he’s pitched well. When he has a bad game, it’s because he hasn’t pitched well. “People don’t know me here, so they don’t know how to take me,” he said. “But when I’m good, it doesn’t matter which one is behind the plate.”
UPDATE, 5:33 p.m.: CC is in the outfield, standing in front of the bullpen getting ready to warm up. We’re a half hour away.
UPDATE, 5:43 p.m.: Introductions are starting. Twins trainers and such running out on to the field now.
UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: In an upset of 1980 U.S. hockey proportions, Carl Pavano was roundly booed when introduced. When Ron Gardenhire was introduced, he ran out and hugged Pavano before going to his spot on the line.
UPDATE, 5:47 p.m.: Upside of early starts: Kids can watch. Downside of early starts: Tons of empty seats when the home team is being introduced.
UPDATE, 5:49 p.m.: Hey, what do you know – Chien-Ming Wang is here.
UPDATE, 5:51 p.m.: Big ovations for Mo, Hughes, Tex, CC. Biggest, of course, for the Captain.
UPDATE, 6 p.m.: Admiral Eric Olson, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, just threw out the first pitch. We’re minutes away.
UPDATE, 6:05 p.m.: CC warming up to “Big Poppa,” beloved song of the LoHud Yankees Blog.
UPDATE, 6:07 p.m.: And we’re off. Sixty-two degrees at first pitch. Enjoy the ride, everyone.
UPDATE, 6:11 p.m.: FYI, the wind at first pitch is officially listed as 24 mph and out to RF.
UPDATE, 6:13 p.m.: I thought it was Burnett and Posada who weren’t on the same page; Posada looked crossed up on the passed ball.
UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.: Nasty slider to Mauer, who is now 5-of-24 with 10 strikeouts against Sabathia.
UPDATE, 6:18 p.m.: No damage done as Cuddyer skies to center. Seats are starting to fill in now and the crowd is juiced.
UPDATE, 6:21 p.m.: Sometimes it feels like Jeter will someday lead off an over-50 softball game with a hit. He just doesn’t know how to do anything else.
UPDATE, 6:25 p.m.: Just for context: Jeter was 95-for-244 (.389) when leading off any inning this season, with seven homers, 16 doubles and 17 walks. That’s pretty good.
UPDATE, 6:28 p.m.: Of course A-Rod’s first AB would come with a man on base. Might as well get the first one out of the way early.
UPDATE, 6:31 p.m.: Soft fly to right. Inning over. That’s 36 LOB in Alex’s last 17 postseason games (including tonight).
UPDATE, 6:34 p.m.: (Josh here) I talked to Twins GM Bill Smith before the game. He said the decision of who to pitch in Game 3 lies with Gardenhire, but here are his thoughts on the Idle one: “He’s healthy. Carl Pavano, since we got him, has been phenomenal. He has taken the ball. He has pitched well,” Smith said. He then added: “He’s pitched. He’s healthy. He’s strong. And he’s going to pitch in this series.
As I mentioned to Sam and Chad before here on press row, don’t be surprised if Baker, the Twins best pitcher, throws Game 3 and then Pavano replaces Dunsing in Game 4. The club obviously preferred Pavano, who started on Sunday on short rest over Dunsing. Of course, Dunsing could change a few things by tossing a gem tonight.
UPDATE, 6:41 p.m.: Remember what Flaherty said earlier today? CC isn’t falling off the mound on his follow-through at all. He’s landing straight down the middle and his slider is nasty; all four strikeouts so far have come on that pitch.
UPDATE, 6:50 p.m.: That was an Andy-esque hook from Duenseng to get Cano. He’s thrown 30 pitches through two and isn’t looking much rattled by the situation.
UPDATE, 6:58 p.m.: Only fitting that the Yankees get a double-play there since Sabathia got a terrible call on a strike – that somehow wasn’t – to Punto.
UPDATE: 7:04 p.m.: This lineup might not be terrifying, but Mauer and Cuddyer can hit. A bigger concern for the Yankees, Sabathia and Posada were clearly not on the same page on that pitch to Kubel. That’s another passed ball and a 2-0 Twins lead. Sabathia has thrown 64 pitches.
UPDATE, 7:14 p.m.: And the Yankees are right back in it as the Captain delivers. That was a smoked liner over left field fence on a 1-0 pitch and it’s 2-2. That was Jeter’s 18th career postseason home run, 10th in the ALDS. The 18 homers tie Jeter with Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for third all-time.
UPDATE, 7:21 p.m.: And Alex swings at a breaking ball in the dirt for strike three. The LOB count is at 37. Meanwhile, you guys are approaching four-digit comments. We’re going to a second thread shortly.
UPDATE, 7:29 p.m.: First clean inning of the night for CC. He’s at 76 pitches through four.
UPDATE, 7:31 p.m.: They just played the subway race on the big screen. I was pulling for the 5 train. … This is Chad, by the way.
UPDATE, 7:35 p.m.: And we just broke through the wall into a second thread.