Pitching: RHP A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04 ERA regular season)
Pitching: RHP Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.03 ERA regular season)
TIME/TV: 6:07 p.m., TBS
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy and cool with showers in the forecast during the evening. Temps are supposed to be in the high 50s tonight but with less wind than in Game 1. Thunderstorms should stay away until after midnight. Check out the full forecast here.
STATE OF THE STRIPES: Excellent. They’re up 1-0 in the best-of-five and got strong Game 1 performances from a slew of key players including CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Tonight they’ll try to do something they haven’t done in 10 years: Win the first two games of a first-round series.
HELLO, WORLD: Entering this postseason, A.J. Burnett’s 244 regular-season starts ranked him fourth-highest among pitchers who had never appeared in a playoff game, trailing only KC’s Jamey Wright (246), the Dodgers’ Randy Wolf (275) and the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay (287). Wolf jumped off the list on Wednesday when he started for L.A. in Game 1 of the NLDS with St. Louis. Now it’s Burnett’s turn.
HOME SWEET HOME: One of the main factors in Joe Girardi tabbing Burnett for Game 2 was his performance at Yankee Stadium this year. Burnett was 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 16 starts in the Bronx, and the Yankees are 12-4 at home when Burnett pitches.
THE FLYING MOLINA BROTHERS: Jose Molina’s kid brother, Cardinals catcher Yadier, had a rough night behind the plate in yesterday’s Cards-Dodgers game, and Jose will have his chance tonight. The numbers tell the story: Burnett is 5-5, 4.96 in 16 starts with Jorge Posada, and 5-2, 3.28 in 11 starts with Molina.
MARK IT DOWN: Mark Teixeira hit the ball hard in Game 1 but had nothing to show for it, finishing the night 0-for-4. Look for him to break out tonight, though, as he’s a career 6-for-6 with a home run against Twins starter Nick Blackburn. Other Yankees with (some) success against Blackburn are Derek Jeter (3-for-7, 1 HR) and Alex Rodriguez (3-for-9, 1 HR). Rest easy, those worried about Posada’s missing bat: Molina is 1-for-2 with a walk against Blackburn.
NICKED UP: Blackburn has been a big-game pitcher for the Twins this season, putting up a 1.65 ERA in his last four regular-season starts (all wins) as the Twins charged back in the AL Central race. Unfortunately for Minnesota, he hasn’t had much success against the Yankees; he’s 0-4 with a 5.89 ERA in four starts.
IF THERE WERE WALK-TO-THE-PLATE MUSIC IN REAL LIFE, TODAY’S WOULD BE: Thunderstruck by AC/DC.
Back with much, much, much more later on.
UPDATE, 2:28 p.m.: Lineups are up and the Yankees are as expected. Girardi audio coming shortly. After an off-day yesterday, it’s not surprising that he didn’t have too much to say.
UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: For those who are wondering: The tarp is off the field and the grounds crew is setting up the batting cage. Looks like they’ll at least try to start batting practice. The skies are still cloudy but it’s dry.
UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: So this is why they carried a third catcher; right now, Francisco Cervelli is on the field taking grounders at third base with Alex Rodriguez.
UPDATE, 2:48 p.m.: Here’s the audio from Joe Girardi’s pre-game press conference.
UPDATE, 2:52 p.m.: (Josh here) Below is audio from Ron Gardenhire’s pre-game presser. He is very funny on the subject of Carlos Gomez, who will start in CF tonight. “He irritates people,” Gardenhire said. “Sometimes me.”
Gardy goes on to discuss Pavano and his — gulp! — leadership, as well as Joe Mauer’s defense (“we don’t see as many bobbleheads on the mound”) and how much the Twins finally want to get past the first round, which they have accomplished just once this decade.
Here’s the audio:
UPDATE, 3:09 p.m.: Chad here with some highlights of Girardi’s 10-minute session with the beat writers.
· If the series goes to Game 5, it’s not “especially hard” for the Yankees to use Jorge Posada to catch A.J. Burnett. It will obviously be a story, but “We’re prepared to do it if we have to do it.”
· Girardi reiterated that Phil Hughes is the eighth-inning reliever, despite the fact Joba Chamberlain pitched after Hughes in Game 1. That was simply a product of long at-bats for Hughes. There is no plan to use Hughes in the seventh and Chamberlain in the eighth.
· Brett Gardner is a dangerous weapon off the bench, but “That’s not necessarily why we’re leaving him there,” Girardi said. “That is a valuable commodity that we have on the bench, and he can play an extremely important role late in games, but Melky has gotten the majority of the playing time.”
· One last (and probably accurate) word on the whole Molina/Posada controversy: “Maybe it’s not such a big issue if we’re playing everyday and there’s not so much time to talk about it, but with days off and not much else going on yesterday, it can become the big story.”
UPDATE, 3:27 p.m.: Yankees are on the field now stretching. First group into the batting cage shortly.
UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: (Josh here) I just returned from the field, where I was milling around during the early stages of BP. I have a little news to report…
You may remember A-Rod said in a report in the Post early last month that he may not need a second hip surgery. Today his doctor, Dr. Marc Philippon, in town for a meeting, watched Rodriguez take batting practice. Afterward, Dr. Philippon said he now doesn’t expect A-Rod to need another surgery this offseason.
“(Not) at this point in time, based on my clinical exam and what I saw in batting practice,” Dr. Philippon said. “I need to do more tests, but so far I don’t think he will need surgery.”
Philippon said Rodriguez has recovered more rapidly from surgery than other baseball players. He estimated the third baseman at 95 percent. He believed Rodriguez was no better than 75-80 percent back in the spring. Dr. Philippon also said a patient of this surgery will continue to recover for up to a year after surgery, meaning Rodriguez will continue to improve from now through spring training.
A-Rod missed the first 24 games and played 124 of the final 134. Dr. Philippon credited the Yankees commitment to rest — a key part of the established plan for recovery, he said — for Rodriguez’s speedy recovery. “I have to really thank the Yankee organization,” he said. “It was a very important part of our plan and I have to respect their dedication to fulfilling the plan.”
UPDATE, 4:38 p.m.: Yankees just came off the field and the Twins are hitting. Kurt Russell – wearing a Yankees jacket – is among the folks watching the warm-ups.
UPDATE, 5:05 p.m.: For those who didn’t see it before, just wanted to mention John Flaherty’s analysis of tonight’s pitching match-up. It’s a few posts down or right here if you want to click directly. John had some very interesting insight into what to look for from Burnett tonight if you’re watching at home.
UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Twins coming off the field now. It’s still pretty cloudy here but the forecast given on the big scoreboard here just said that there is only a “slight chance” of showers during the game. Keep your fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of going looking for something tasty at the concession stands. Anyone got any recommendations?
UPDATE, 5:55 p.m.: Anthem done quite well by FDNY firefighter Frank Pizarro. We’re ready for baseball. I went with the baked ziti by the way. Very tasty.
UPDATE, 5:59 p.m.: Mr. October throwing out the first pitch. Little weird to see Jorge Posada catching it. Posada did a nice job blocking the ball in the dirt though …
UPDATE, 6:02 p.m.: I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved watching the starting pitcher walk in from the bullpen. Pitching coach by his side, a few last seconds to compose his thoughts before he takes the ball – it just feels sort of gladiator-like or something.
UPDATE, 6:04 p.m.: Speaking of gladiator-like … The music from “300” is playing now as Burnett starts his warm-ups. Here we go.
UPDATE, 6:07 p.m.: And we’re off. 68 degrees at first pitch and it’s a 93 mph heater down the middle for a strike. Enjoy the game everyone.
UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.: Just like Flaherty said, the fastball sets up the power curve. Great pitch to whiff Kubel for Burnett, who kept his emotions in check and is through one.
UPDATE, 6:17 p.m.: That was weird. Derek Jeter led off the game but didn’t get a hit. Strange night here in the Bronx.
UPDATE, 6:32 p.m.: I guess everyone got out of work earlier on a Friday because it’s filled up quicker in here than it did on Wednesday. It got real loud at the end of Tolbert’s at-bat.
UPDATE, 6:43 p.m.: You can argue that it was high, but I thought that was a good pitch to Swisher. Movement like that is why Nick Blackburn can pitch effectively in the big leagues. This is Chad by the way. For all I know, Sam thought that was a terrible pitch.
UPDATE, 6:49 p.m: Press box is pretty divided on whether Span was safe or out on that near 1-6-3 in the third. When the showed the replay, half the writers seems to mutter “safe” while the others said “out.” When I saw it live, I thought he was out.
UPDATE, 6:52 p.m.: No pitching around Mauer that time. You know your curveball is on when you’re freezing the best hitter in the league.
UPDATE, 6:58 p.m.: Posada would have DEFINITELY hit a home run there.
UPDATE, 7:00 p.m.: And Jeter nearly does. Deepest part of the park isn’t the place to be, and we’re scoreless through three.
UPDATE, 7:07 p.m.: Two HBPs in a row. This is when Molina needs to use his Jedi powers and keep Burnett from getting too riled up.
UPDATE, 7:09 p.m.: That was an amazing play on so many levels: First, unbelievable play by Swisher to see Gomez straying off second and throwing an absolute bullet to Jeter, who got the final out just before Young crossed home plate.
Plate ump Chuck Meriwether was emphatically waving his arms which – to most of us – looked like a “safe” sign. That caused Joe Girardi to literally leap over the dugout fence on his way out to argue, before he realized that Meriwether was actually waving the run off not calling it safe. Burnett wasn’t sure either, and had to ask several people if the run counted as he came into the dugout. Amazing play all the way around. Big break for the Yankees. Still scoreless.
UPDATE, 7:15 p.m.: Chad, Josh and I were just discussing that last play and here’s the crazy thing: If Gomez does, literally, ANYTHING ELSE but go back to the bag, the run scores. If he gets thrown out at third, if he gets into a run-down, if he just falls down and lays there so Jeter has to run over and tag him, it’s enough time for Young to cross the plate. Only by going back to second does he let the Yankees off the hook. Amazing.
UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: Visit from Dave Eiland now as Burnett has walked Cabrera and Mauer back-to-back with two outs. Not good, certainly, but better than laying one in to Mauer. Now he needs to bear down on Kubel.
UPDATE, 7:32 p.m.: That was a 25-pitch inning for Burnett, who has allowed two hits and no runs but somehow feels like he could slip at any moment.
UPDATE, 7:40 p.m.: Well that takes care of the no-hitter that Sandy Koufax Blackburn was throwing. Cano goes straight up the middle with a clean hit.
UPDATE, 7:41 p.m.: Announced crowd of 50,006 here tonight. Largest of the season.
UPDATE, 7:48 p.m.: Ball four to Young wasn’t even close as it went all the way to the backstop. That’s five walks and two HBPs for Burnett tonight.
UPDATE, 7:54 p.m.: Looks like Robertson and Marte getting loose in the pen.
UPDATE, 7:55 p.m.: That was a tough play, to be sure, but Damon also seemed to make it a little harder than it needed to be. Long run, yes, but why jump?
UPDATE, 7:57 p.m.: Cheers for Jorge Posada as he steps out into the on-deck circle.
UPDATE, 8:01 p.m.: Almost a great story as Posada gives it a ride but Span catches it in deep center. He can’t get Jeter’s double though, and the Yankees are in business.
UPDATE, 8:05 p.m.: Joba up in the Yanks pen, Mahay and Rauch in the Twins pen.
UPDATE, 8:06 p.m.: This would be a good time for Tex to have his first hit of the series, no?
UPDATE, 8:10 p.m.: HUGE out for Blackburn there as Tex was 6-for-6 with a homer off him previously. Let’s see if A-Rod carries over the clutchiness from Wednesday night.
UPDATE, 8:13 p.m.: And A-Rod delivers again. Clean single to left, Jeter scores, Blackburn is out and the Yankees are right back in it. After going five years without a postseason RBI, A-Rod has three in two games. Mahay on now for the Twins.