With all due respect to the Twins, the Yankees real battle in the ALDS was with themselves. As noted in an earlier post, there were five key questions surrounding the Yankees, and most of them were answered in the affirmative. As a result, the Twins really had no chance because the Yankees were just a much better team now playing at the top of their game.
Heading into the ALDS, the biggest concern for the Yankees was the team’s rotation depth (or lack thereof), but as things turned out, the “worst” outing was turned in by C.C. Sabathia, who surrendered three earned runs in “only” six innings. After Sabathia, the Yankees were supposed to be vulnerable, but the Twins quickly found out that wasn’t the case. First, Andy Pettitte allayed fears about his health by throwing seven innings of two run ball, and then Phil Hughes did even better, shutting out the Twins in his seven frames. As a result, the Yankees can now look forward to the ALCS with confidence in the rotation.
Headlined by Mariano Rivera, the Yankees bullpen was expected to be a relative strength, and thanks to solid efforts by Kerry Wood and David Robertson, it certainly proved to be so. The biggest question, however, was would Boone Logan be able to be the same shutdown lefty as Damaso Marte was in last year’s post season. Although he only saw one inning of work, Logan retired three of the four lefties he faced, including a pivotal bases loaded pop up from Jason Kubel in the eighth inning of game three. Equally important was Logan responded to his first taste of October by throwing strikes. In the ALCS, Logan will undoubtedly face an even greater challenge, but his first crack at the post season was a success.
At times during last year’s post season, Alex Rodriguez seemed to single handedly lift the Yankees offense, so a natural concern was would he be able to shoulder the burden again. Well, in the ALDS, he didn’t have to. Despite getting only three singles from the cleanup hitter, the Yankees did not struggle to score runs. Among those picking up the slack was Mark Teixeira, whose game winning two run homer in the opener was one of the biggest hits of the series. Like Arod, Teixeira is capable of carrying an offense for an extended period, so the Yankees had to be heartened by the sight of their slugging first baseman coming through in the clutch.
Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were a major part of the Yankees’ championship in 2009, so this year there were some pretty big shoes to fill. Replacing those two in the lineup were Curtis Granderson and the DH platoon of Marcus Thames and Lance Berkman, so the performance of those three players faced the most scrutiny. How did they do? Thames’ OPS of 1.089 was the lowest of the group, which pretty much says it all. In total, the trio went 9 for 22 with five runs, two homers and seven RBIs.
By sweeping the Twins, the ALDS provided some vindication for the Yankees’ brain trust of GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. After taking some hits for his off season acquisition, all of Cashman’s additions contributed in a big way to the first round sweep. Meanwhile, Girardi was afforded an opportunity to say “I told you so”, as the crispness of the Yankees play and lack of a home field advantage seemed to justify his end of season approach.
The last out of the series was a microcosm of the matchup between the two teams. When Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, retired Danny Valencia, a 25 year old rookie third baseman, to close out the sweep, the disparity between the two teams was on display. Although much has been written about the Yankees being in Twins’ heads, the fact of the matter is they are simply a much better team. With all of the Yankees’ questions answered in a positive manner, the Twins really had no chance.
Yankees Top-10 Pitching Performances in the ALDS, by Game Score
|David Wells||9/29/1998||1||TEX||W 2-0||8||5||0||1||9||80|
|O. Hernandez||10/5/1999||1||TEX||W 8-0||8||2||0||6||4||76|
|Andy Pettitte||9/30/1998||2||TEX||W 3-1||7||3||1||0||8||75|
|Phil Hughes||10/9/2010||3||MIN||W 6-1||7||4||0||1||6||74|
|David Wells||10/4/1997||3||CLE||W 6-1||9||5||1||0||1||74|
|Andy Pettitte||10/2/2003||2||MIN||W 4-1||7||4||1||3||10||72|
|Mike Mussina||10/13/2001||3||OAK||W 1-0||7||4||0||1||4||72|
|Dave Righetti||10/8/1981||2||MIL||W 3-0||6||4||0||2||10||72|
|Andy Pettitte||10/4/2000||2||OAK||W 4-0||7.2||5||0||1||3||71|
|Roger Clemens||10/9/1999||3||TEX||W 3-0||7||3||0||2||2||71|