Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16 ERA regular season)
Pitching: RHP Carl Pavano (14-12, 5.10 ERA regular season)
TIME/TV: 7:07 p.m., TBS
WEATHER: Pretty terrible. Temps in the 30s, sporadic snow showers and biting wind chill. Good thing the Twins have a roof on the Dome made out of this stuff.
STATE OF THE STRIPES: Sweep-ish. The Yankees are up 2-0 in the best-of-five series and are one win away from the ALCS. The Twins came into the postseason as the hottest team, but the Yankees have cooled them off in two different ways: With a gem from CC Sabathia in Game 1 and an 11-inning thriller in Game 2.
DON’T PETT THE ANIMALS: Andy Pettitte is making his 36th postseason start tonight, which means the veteran lefty has basically pitched one full season in October during his career. His numbers? 14-9, 3.96 ERA. His regular-season averages? 17-10, 3.91 ERA. In other words, he’s one of the best at making the biggest games seem just like every other. Pettitte also owns the Twins – the last time he lost a game to Minnesota was April 30, 2001.
A-PLUS FOR A-ROD: Alex Rodriguez seems to have forgotten whatever it was that plagued him in previous Octobers, busting out for five RBI in the first two games of the series including his “Yankee Moment” in Game 2 when he crushed a two-run homer in the ninth inning to tie the game. A-Rod is 4-for-8 in the series.
FLIP THAT HOUSE: Playing in the Dome is supposed to be a big advantage for the Twins but the Yankees seem more at home there than Minny does. The Twins have lost seven straight home playoff games, four of which were to the Yankees during the 2003 and 2004 first rounds.
QUIET LUMBER: Despite being up 2-0, the Yankees haven’t gotten much production from the vaunted lineup. Other than A-Rod and Derek Jeter, no Yankee regular is hitting over .300 in the series. Mark Teixiera and Jorge Posada have two hits in the ALDS; Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon all have just one.
CRAZY CARL: In case you hadn’t heard, former Yankee Carl Pavano is standing between the Yankees and the second round. Pavano occasionally played – I use the term loosely – for the Yankees from 2005-08, then signed with Cleveland this year and was traded to the Twins at the deadline. Assuming he doesn’t suffer a debilitating hangnail early, he could do some damage against the Yankees: In two starts against them this season, he allowed just four runs in 13 1/3 combined innings.
IF THERE WERE WALK-TO-THE-PLATE MUSIC IN REAL LIFE, TODAY’S WOULD BE: Dance N Sweep by Elephant Man. (You can hate the music, but how can you hate the title?)
Chad Jennings and I are in the house, and we’ll be back with much, much, much more later on.
UPDATE, 4:04 p.m.: Chad here. Sam and I watched the top of the Red Sox ninth at the hotel, then got to the Metrodome in time to see the Angels win it. Girardi talks to the media in 15 minutes. More updates after that session.
UPDATE, 4:31 p.m.: Not much out of the Girardi press briefing, as expected. He talked about the team’s defense, about watching the end of the Red Sox game and about how other closers’ struggles so far this postseason makes him appreciate Mariano Rivera even more. Audio coming in a moment.
UPDATE, 4:41 p.m.: Here’s the audio from Girardi. By the way, all updates tonight are time stamped with New York (not local) times, mostly because that’s what’s on my computer and it’s hard for me to remember to subtract an hour every time. No offense, Central Time Zoners.
What jumps out? Not much, other than to look for some offense from the top of the Yankees order tonight. If Jeter and Damon continue to have success against Pavano, A-Rod and Teixeira should have plenty of chances for some more big hits.
In terms of the Twins, there are several who have hit Pettitte well (albeit in limited at-bats). Harris has had a big series already, and he clearly doesn’t mind facing Pettitte. Same with Delmon Young.
UPDATE, 5:01 p.m.: From his session with the beat writers, Joe Girardi’s take on the Angels: “Their lineup is very good. Up and down their lineup, guys have become more patient in their lineup. They have power, they have speed, they can score runs in so many different ways. Their starting rotation is good, it’s balanced. A couple of lefties, a couple of righties. Their bullpen has done a good job. I just think they’re a complete team, and they create problems for teams with their team speed. They really do. We have to prepare for it, and the thing with their team speed is, I don’t think you can let it rattle you. That’s what we have to talk about, because they’re going to run.”
UPDATE, 5:08 p.m.: Twins are coming off the field and several Yankees are already out stretching. They’ll start hitting shortly. In other news, the Twins press box staff left TBS on all the TVs after the Angels-Red Sox game ended, so we’re getting “Road Trip” in here which, even without the sound on, is still pretty funny. Bonus trivia: Several scenes in “Road Trip” were filmed at Emory University, official Division III school of the LoHud Yankees Blog (Mizzou is the official Division I school, thanks to Chad).
UPDATE, 5:13 p.m.: In case you’re wondering, Girardi said C.C. Sabathia is going through his daily routine as if there will be a Game 4 tomorrow. I’m sure you assumed that to be the case, but confirmation is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies (the lessons of Shawshank Redemption can be applied to every situation). Apparently it’s the movie hour here at LoHud.
(Capital H in LoHud. Lessons learned from Sam Borden.)
UPDATE, 6:31 p.m.: That’s Robinson Cano throwing to Jorge Posada during batting practice, and that’s Johnny Damon signing for the crowd above the Yankees dugout.
UPDATE, 6:39 p.m.: Nice ovation for Joe Mauer who was just announced as the AL batting champion. Mauer tipped his cap and the crowd responded by chanting “MVP” several times.
UPDATE, 6:56 p.m.: Here’s hoping the new Target Field has updated scoreboard technology; the “big screen” here is only slightly larger than the TVs hanging from the ceiling of the Yankee Stadium home clubhouse and the pre-game stats they were giving included the “Yankees leaders” in “games played” during this ALDS. In case you’re wondering, it’s a tie between “everyone” with 2.
UPDATE, 7:07 p.m.: Say what you want about the Twins, but TC the Bear is cool, though I rank him behind Billy the Marlin, as well as almost anyone from the ZOOperstars, who are fantastic.
UPDATE, 7:10 p.m.: And we’re off. It’s 39 degrees outside and 68 inside the Dome. Pavano is one batter in and isn’t hurt yet. Just keeping you posted.
UPDATE, 7:25 p.m.: Two K’s for Pavano, who gets A-Rod swinging over that splitter/change that Flaherty talked about earlier.
UPDATE, 7:31 p.m.: Not a lot of good-looking swings off Pavano so far and the crowd in here is juiced.
UPDATE, 7:42 p.m.: Well, it’s clearly Pavano’s night — if he was wearing a Yankees uniform, that shard of Cano’s bat would have probably lodged in his windpipe.
UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: Whoops. Swish thought it was ball four. Back in the box and it’s suddenly strike three instead. Four K’s in eight batters for Pavano.
UPDATE, 7:47 p.m.: And the nightmare is over – there will be no perfect game by Carl Pavano tonight. Second time through the order will be interesting; Pavano isn’t generally the kind of pitcher who can overpower a team.
UPDATE, 7:56 p.m.: Pettitte is trading punches (pitches?) with Pavano and showing his playoff mettle. You’d think the Yankees would be able to break through on Pavano at some point. Laying off that splitter/change would be a good way to start.
UPDATE, 8:04 p.m.: If George Steinbrenner were still George Steinbrenner, he’d be yelling at someone about how the Yankees were silly to let a warrior like Pavano go.
UPDATE, 8:13 p.m.: Just what everyone predicted: a pitcher’s duel. Eleven of the first 25 hitters in this game have struck out.
UPDATE, 8:20 p.m.: Hideki Matsui never broke for second and Pavano danced out of the fifth inning with an unassisted double play at first base. The good news for the Yankees is that Robinson Cano hit the ball hard and so did Jorge Posada, but an actual run would be nice.
UPDATE, 8:26 p.m.: Another heads-up play from Swisher there to get the force at second. Couple of hard hit balls off Pettitte but no damage done so far.
UPDATE, 8:35 p.m.: Can’t blame the Twins fans for booing a call along the foul line, but that one was clearly fair. Chance for Damon to give the Yanks a lead here.
UPDATE, 8:37 p.m.: Not so much. Pavano freezes Damon with a 91 mph fastball that tails right across the plate. Now it’s right back on Pettitte to match the zero.
UPDATE, 8:48 p.m.: Tough spot right here for Andy – two on, two out and the best hitter in the league at the plate. One run is a lot in this game.
UPDATE, 8:49 p.m.: That didn’t take long. Mauer goes the other way and it’s 1-0 Twins. The “MVP!” chants are bouncing off the baggie. Pettitte’s got to bear down and keep it right here. Robertson is up in the pen.
UPDATE, 8:52 p.m.: High heat gets Pettitte out of it, and he screams in frustration as he walks off. He knows that one run looks huge right now.
UPDATE, 9:01 p.m.: Direct quote from Chad: “Alex Rodriguez hit a postseason HR in a game in which Carl Pavano was throwing a shutout. It’s just a weird, weird game.” Couldn’t agree more. Whatever, it’s 1-1 and the crowd – save for a brief “steroid” chant – has gone quiet. Joba up in the pen.
UPDATE, 9:04 p.m.: And Posada goes deep to make it – all of a sudden – a one-run Yankees lead. Two opposite field homers, one crushed (A-Rod’s) and one that just barely got over the wall (Posada’s). Joba to Hughes to Mariano?
UPDATE, 9:06 p.m.: By the way, A-Rod has a career-high six RBI in this playoff series. The most he’s ever had in a whole postseason is eight, and that was in 11 games in 2004.