Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Burden of Proof

The Twins' sole victory at Yankee Stadium last year sort of came out of nowhere.

It was May 16th, and New York had already decisively won the first two in a four-game set. They were on their way to a victory No. 3.

The Yanks led 3-1 heading into the eighth inning before, suddenly, the Twins started to show signs of life for the first time in the series. They loaded up the bases against Joba Chamberlain, who gave way to Mariano Rivera. Jim Thome pinch-hit for Drew Butera and coaxed a run-scoring walk, and then, in one of the most improbable moments in recent Twins history, Jason Kubel (who'd entered the at-bat with a .218 average) launched a grand slam against the greatest closer in history, pushing the Twins ahead for good.

Optimists viewed the spectacular bomb as a sign that the Twins had finally overcome their Yankee demons. Such hopeful thoughts were quickly abolished after the Bombers took two of three at Target Field a week later and went on to sweep Minnesota in three games -- for a second straight year -- in the ALDS.

Last night's thrilling come-from-behind victory shared many commonalities with the aforementioned ballgame. Again, the Twins had come into the game with their tails between their legs and fallen into an early hole. Again, the rally began innocuously enough -- a pair of walks and a single. And again, it was a free pass issued with the bases loaded that started the bleeding for New York.

But this time, the hit that buried the dagger was far less authoritative. Indeed, Delmon Young's chip shot into right field that managed to evade Nick Swisher's reach, clearing the bases, stands in stark contrast to Kubel's epic bomb against Rivera.

Twins fans who have grown tired of watching the Yankees stomp all over their club in recent years desperately wanted to believe that last year's epic Bronx comeback signified a true turnaround in this lopsided rivalry. That team failed to prove this was the case.

This, however, is a new year. Last night's victory was hardly enchanting, but it was a victory. And these 2011 Twins now have the opportunity to succeed where their predecessors failed: putting together a convincing, complete victory in Yankee Stadium. They'll have their top two starters on the mound the next two nights to try and accomplish the feat.

As far as early-season tests go, they don't get much more significant than this.


Anonymous said...

Solid win tonight, but completely agree Twins did everything they had to to get a win just seemed like we stole won, not showed we can play against the Evil Empire. Feels really good to watch them beat the team with the largest payroll though.

Anonymous said...

It didn't really factor in the victory, but I just want to point out that Kubel is now 5/8 lifetime against Rivera, a .625 average. Fun fact.

Shane Wahl said...

Good post. Something about 2-3 looks so much better than 1-4 this early on in the season.

Mauer, Young, and Kubel have had enormous success against Freddy and Thome has had very good success. Hopefully, therefore, Michael Cuddyer (who has *sucked* against Freddy) is not in the starting lineup . . .

Josh said...

Honestly, the Twins get 1 out of the next 2 and the road trip is reasonably successful. Would it be better to come back to Target Field with a winning record? Sure, but after the start the Twins pitching had 1 game under .500 is pretty good. (Hell of a lot better than where Boston is!)

Right now the team is hitting poorly, the starters have been bad, and the bullpen a little shaky...all things I expect to change. If they survive this stretch at 3-4 that's pretty good, honestly.

George said...

Hey, anytime the Twins actually win against the Yankees is nice. Usually a one run lead against them feels like a 5-run deficit. :p

I'm actually quite surprised that the first two games of the series didn't end up in blowout wins for the Yankees considering how each game started. Maybe the Yankees feel sorry for us or something. Regardless, the Twins are hitting so bad right now they're bound to improve (unless they've become the 2010 Mariners of the Midwest). I mean, JP Arencibia has as many homers in one game as the entire Twins team this season. That's crazy!

Michael said...

Nick -

Per your twitter the other day, did you find a good sports bar?

I would have made this reply on twitter but that's way too fancy for me.

Nick N. said...

Per your twitter the other day, did you find a good sports bar?

Ended up grilling steaks and watching at home. Still on the look-out for a good regular spot though.

Anonymous said...

Another thing those two games had in common as well as the 4th of July win in 2007 (the only 3 wins they have in New York over the last 15 regular season games there), was that I was in attendance. I’m a huge Twins fan, who grew up in Plymouth, but now I live in New Jersey; each game I make it to at Yankee Stadium they seem to find a way to win. This year I will do anything to get to a playoff game if they end up playing here to really test my streak.