Pettitte (1-0), the 38-year-old left-hander who made just three starts down the stretch after a two-month stint on the disabled list with a groin injury, was vintage 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.”
I think yesterday I told the guys that I have never felt so unprepared going into the playoffs. And I really, I mean, I felt like I would have a good outing, but it was just so similar. I got locked in. Mechanically I just felt great. You know, the ball come out of my hand good
Along with Berkman, Curtis Granderson was a catalyst for New York with three hits, an RBI and a run scored, helping the club to its eighth consecutive postseason win over the Twins, losers of 11 straight overall in the playoffs. The skid is tied for the second longest in MLB history, second only to Boston’s 13-game stretch from 1915-1976.
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.
The Yankees are the only team to advance past the five-game division series after losing the first two at home, doing so in 2001 against Oakland.
“I’ve talked about our series with the Twins the last two years, and it just seems like every game can go each way. And tonight was the same kind of game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They’re a very good ball club and we understand that. And we still have a lot of work to do.”
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 8:37 p.m. (et) with New York’s Phil Hughes scheduled to make his first postseason start opposite lefty Brian Duensing.
Despite owning a lead in each of its previous seven playoff meetings against New York, Minnesota proceeded to lose the game, including a 6-4 setback in Wednesday’s opener. The same was true in Game 2.
After Nick Swisher was stranded on second following his two-out double in the top of the second, the Twins opened the scoring in the bottom half.
Delmon Young and Jim Thome hit back-to-back singles to open the inning and each advanced 90 feet on a groundout. Jason Kubel followed with a four-pitch walk to load the bases for rookie Danny Valencia, whose fly ball to right was deep enough that Young raced home without a play at the plate.
J.J. Hardy lined out to second to leave two runners on, and Granderson got the Yankees going with a leadoff double off the right field wall in the fourth. Mark Teixeira, who hit the eventual game-winning homer on Wednesday, moved the runner up a base with a base hit, and Alex Rodriguez brought him home with a sacrifice fly to right.
Robinson Cano then laced a lined drive that one-hopped the wall in right to put runners on the corners, but Pavano got out of the jam by getting Swisher on a comebacker to the mound to start a 1-6-3 double play.
Pavano made a mistake the next frame though, catching too much of the plate on a 2-0 changeup that Berkman redirected into the bullpen beyond the wall in left-center. The designated hitter homered just once in 106 regular season at- bats after being acquired in a trade with the Astros prior to the trade deadline.
The Yankees had a chance to add on in the sixth with runners on first and third and one out, but Cano’s short flyout to left and Swisher’s groundout to short ended the threat.
A silent Target Field crowd finally showed some life and erupted in the home half when Orlando Hudson sent a down-and-in curveball over the left field wall to tie the game. Pettitte had retired 12 in a row prior to the homer, the second baseman’s first since August 17.
The euphoria was short lived, as Thome hit a dribbler in front of the plate to waste Young’s two-out triple, and the Yankees took the lead back in the seventh.
Jorge Posada took a payoff pitch just off the plate to earn a walk leading off, and Berkman hit a shot to the warning track in left-center after taking an even closer 1-2 pitch. Posada scored from first on the two-bagger, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire voiced his displeasure with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt on the aforementioned fourth pitch to Berkman. Gardenhire was ejected for his actions, and the Yankees tacked on another run.
“I thought the ball was a strike, [Wendelstedt] didn’t call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that,” Gardenhire said.
Brett Gardner got on with a single when Valencia failed to bare-hand his bunt to third, and Derek Jeter poked a patented opposite-field single to right in front of a diving Kubel, driving in Berkman for a 4-2 game. Jon Rauch retired Rodriguez and Cano to strand the bases loaded that inning.
Pettitte hurled a 1-2-3 seventh, Kerry Wood set down the side in the eighth and Granderson’s blooper to center off Matt Capps plated Gardner for an insurance run. Gardner led off the ninth with a single.
Mariano Rivera also padded a major-league record with his 41st playoff save. Joe Mauer began the bottom of the ninth with a single to left, but the future Hall-of-Fame closer induced a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play ball off the bat of Young before getting Thome on a flyout to left to notch his second save in as many days.
“It was a tough loss for us, a tough night,” said Gardenhire. “We’ve got a big hill to climb. It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done. We’ve seen it done before and this club is never going to quit, and we will give them everything we have when we go to New York…But it is very disappointing in front of our fans here to lose two ballgames.”
The Yankees have won the World Series in each of the three years they swept the division series (1998-99, 2009)…The Yankees have also won all seven postseason games they have played in Minnesota…The Twins went an AL-best 53-28 at home this year…Pavano had a 1.71 earned-run average in nine postseason games — three starts — coming in…Pettitte, who pitched to a 6.75 ERA in his three starts after his DL stint, has four more postseason wins than the next closest pitcher (John Smoltz). He has not lost in his last nine postseason starts or in his last 11 outings against the Twins, including the postseason…Hudson has two career postseason homers…Game time: 2:59.