Two-run lead with no outs and runners at second and third, there were two ways for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to approach the sixth-inning situation. He could focus on the scoreboard, which would tell him he never wants to put the go-ahead run on base. Or he could focus on the plate, which would tell him he never wants to face Robinson Cano.
“I’m always happy to see Robbie hit,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Twins decided to let Cano hit, and Cano doubled in two runs. One batter later, he was at third base, and two batters after that he was scoring the winning run.
“It’s early in the game and there’s no outs, so even if you get a ground ball you’re going to get at least one RBI,” Cano said. “It worked for us, but at the same time, Hafner got a single right away (after Cano’s double) so you can look either way. I would say maybe that’s why he didn’t (call for a walk) because no outs. You’re not going to put the go-ahead run on first base.”
Would manager Cano have pitched to red-hot Cano in that situation?
“Yeah, I’d pitch to him,” Cano said, before cracking up laughing.
In Cano’s past six games he’s hitting .583 with four home runs and 10 RBI. He’s had multiple hits in each of his past five games against the Twins dating back to September 25, 2012. He’s had eight RBI in the first three games of this series. Girardi wouldn’t second-guess Gardenhire’s decision, acknowledging that putting the go-ahead run on base is too risky to consider an intentional walk a no-brainer, but seriously…
“If you do pitch to him, there’s a good chance he’s going to probably hit it hard somewhere,” Chris Stewart said.
Would CC Sabathia have wanted to pitch to Cano in that situation?
“Not at all,” Sabathia said. “Lefty, no matter what. He’s so good right now, such a good hitter, period. He’s difficult to face.”
• Sabathia’s high school coach, Abe Hobbs, makes one road trip a year to watch Sabathia pitch. This year, he happened to pick Minneapolis and happened to witness Sabathia’s 200th career win. “It’s hard not to be aware of it,” Sabathia said. “I don’t know if it means anything right now. I’ll be ready in five days to go again and I guess try to get No. 201.”
• How does 200 wins make Sabathia feel? “It makes me feel old,” he said. “… “It makes me think about my first win in my first season. Me and my mom talked about if I got 10 wins how great that would be; I ended up with 17 that year. Being able to call her tonight and reminisce will be fun.”
• Pretty good win for No. 200. Sabathia got himself into plenty of jams, but he made some big pitches tonight to get through seven innings. He was over 80 pitches after four, so pitching that deep looked nearly impossible at one point. “It’s just his will,” Girardi said. “He never gets down on himself, he always believes that he can make the pitch, and eventually he does it. It’s fun to watch a guy compete like that every time he goes out.”
• What was Cano thinking about in that game-tying at-bat? “All I was thinking about was just put the ball in play because they were playing back,” he said. “Not trying to do too much. Last thing you want is to get jammed inside. The pitch before was a fastball inside and I hit a foul ball. That’s the last thing you want, just get a jam hit a little pop in the infield. You just want to put your head out front.”
• Big at-bat tonight by Lyle Overbay to get the go-ahead sac fly. “That’s big, off of a lefty, after Almonte had just struck out,” Girardi said. “I think sometimes the pressure mounts a little more on the next guy when the first guy doesn’t get it done. Lyle got a pitch he could handle, and Lyle’s been doing that for us all year.”
• According to The Associated Press in Tampa, Derek Jeter ran the bases after putting the ball in play during his simulated at-bats today. Jeter had two singles, a double and three grounders against a pair of right-handers at Steinbrenner Field. As the AP notes, running the bases in the simulated situation is normally one of the final steps before playing in rehab games.
• Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-2 in his second rehab start. According to the AP, he’ll work out in Charleston tomorrow and then move his rehab assignment to High-A Tampa for Friday’s game. Rodriguez won’t play tomorrow.
• Girardi said he wasn’t too bothered by Luis Cruz making an error in his first game with the Yankees. “It’s not like he didn’t take his groundball work,” Girardi said. “and I watched him put every throw on the bag earlier today.”
• Is Sabathia a significantly different pitcher than he was in April? “I don’t think so,” Stewart said. “His velocity is slightly better, but he’s still locating. Maybe missed over the plate a little bit more early on, and now he’s getting a better feel and getting more consistent. It’s tough early on too because he’s coming out of spring training a little different. He may get a little geeked up his first couple of outings and kind of settle in as the season goes along. I think he’s just finally settling in, getting a good feel and going with it.”
• Is Cano feeling significantly different at the plate these days? “I’ve been feeling the same way since the beginning of the season,” Cano said. “It’s falling now. They’re pitching me, which is different.” … Why are the Twins pitching him differently? “The only way that you can look at it, it’s a team that is not in the race,” Cano said. “Maybe when you’re in the race, it’s different. The last thing you want is the same guy to beat you twice, the third hitter to beat you. Maybe I would say that’s the difference. They’re taking their chances.”
• The Yankees moved back ahead of Tampa Bay for third place in the American League East. That’s where they were before being swept in Baltimore over the weekend.
• Final word to Girardi, talking about Sabathia: “He’s been huge. You think about all the wins that he’s had, and I’m glad to get that out of the way for him. I don’t like milestones. Players are going to think about it, and people are going to ask him about it. For CC, I think it’s great. He’s been huge for this organization.”
Associated Press photos