(Sports Network) - Phil Hughes tries to pitch the New York Yankees back into the American League Championship Series, as they hope to continue their postseason mastery of the Minnesota Twins and complete a three-game sweep of them tonight at Yankee Stadium.
With victories at Target Field in the first two games of this series, the Yankees are now 11-2 all-time in postseason play against the Twins and have beaten them eight straight times despite trailing in each of those contests.
New York took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five set on Thursday, as Lance Berkman homered and later hit a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning, and Andy Pettitte added another postseason victory to his major league record in the Yankees' 5-2 win.
The 38-year-old left-hander (1-0), who made just three starts down the stretch after a two-month stint on the disabled list with a groin injury, was his vintage self in picking up his 19th playoff win, setting down 12 in a row at one point while allowing two runs on five hits through seven frames.
"I think [Wednesday] I told the guys that I have never felt so unprepared going into the playoffs," admitted Pettitte. "I felt like I would have a good outing, but it was just so similar. I got locked in. Mechanically I just felt great. The ball come out of my hand good."
Along with Berkman, Curtis Granderson was a catalyst for New York, finishing with three hits, an RBI and a run scored.
Carl Pavano (0-1) was charged with four runs on 10 hits in six-plus innings to take the loss. It was the second straight season the former Yankee hurler lost a decision opposite Pettitte in the playoffs.
In addition to the eight straight defeat to the Yankees, the Twins have now lost 11 straight postseason games, a skid that is tied for the second longest in MLB history and trails only Boston's 13-game drought from 1986-1995.
History is also not on the Twins' side. Of the 19 teams to fall behind 2-0 in ALDS history, only four have come back to prevail, but just one (2001 NY Yankees) did so after losing the first two games at home.
Hoping to nip any chance of that happening in the bud tonight will be Hughes, who makes his first postseason start after going 18-8 with a 4.19 during the regular season. Despite a 4.90 ERA in the second half of the season, Hughes was 1-0 over his final three outings and posted a 2.70 ERA.
Hughes, who was 11-4 in 18 home starts this season, struggled as a reliever last year in the playoffs, pitching to a 8.53 ERA in nine games.
"Just having that experience last year helps," Hughes said. "The playoffs are magnified, and this is the biggest start of the year for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Minnesota's season, meanwhile, rests on the left arm of Brian Duensing, who started the year in the Twins' bullpen but was moved to the rotation and has been tremendous, going 7-2 with a 3.05 earned run average in 13 starts
Overall, he was 10-3 on the year with a 2.62 ERA in 53 games.
Duensing was hit hard by the Yankees in Game 1 of last year's ALDS, surrendering five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. Besides that, he has had four relief appearances against the Yankees, putting up an 8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings during that span.
New York's dominance over the Twins isn't limited to just the postseason. The Yankees won four of the six regular-season matchups between these teams and not including their playoff meeting last season, have faced the Twins 23 times since 2008 and have gone 17-6 in those encounters.