Recurring theme leaves Twins in 0-2 hole
Club heads to Yankee Stadium needing two wins to stay alive
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't mince words before Game 2 of the American League Division Series when he declared the contest "almost a do-or-die type thing" for his club.And now the Twins find themselves in absolute survival mode. A 5-2 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night at Target Field has put the Twins in the most difficult of situations. They find themselves trailing, 0-2, in the best-of-five ALDS, having dropped each of the first two games at home. Lance Berkman delivered two key hits for the Yankees against starter Carl Pavano in Game 2, a go-ahead homer in the fifth and a tiebreaking double in the seventh, to hand the Twins their 11th straight postseason loss. So, now the Twins must head to New York for Game 3 on Saturday and try to stave off elimination. And Yankee Stadium has been a very unkind venue to the Twins, who have won just one game there since the start of the 2008 season.
"We've got a big hill to climb," Gardenhire said. "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."Coming back from an 0-2 hole in a Division Series is not an impossible task, even for a team that's had home-field advantage. The 2001 Yankees lost the first two games of the ALDS at home and then went on to win three straight to reach the AL Championship Series. For the Twins to overcome such a deficit, it will also take putting aside their woes against the Yankees and their overall playoff troubles. The club is 2-11 against New York in four Division Series since 2003 -- with their last win coming back in Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. And the Twins' 11-game losing streak in the postseason has put them in some unwelcome company, matching the Philadelphia Phillies (1915-76) for the second-longest streak in history behind the Boston Red Sox (1986-95) and their 13 playoff losses in a row. "The Yankees, they have been playing us pretty tough and we're giving it everything we have out there," said Twins center fielder Denard Span. "We're going out there battling ... but we can't say eventually anymore because we're down to one more loss and we're going home. We've got Game 3 coming up and [Yankees starter] Phil Hughes. We've got to lay it down on the line." Perhaps the most frustrating part for the Twins on Thursday night was that for a second straight year in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees, it was a controversial call by an umpire that seemed to prove costly.
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The Twins and Yankees were tied at 2 at the start of the seventh inning. Pavano walked the first batter of the inning, Jorge Posada, but he appeared to get the next batter, Berkman, to strike out on a 1-2 pitch. Yet, what looked to be a strike on television replays, home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called a ball. On the very next pitch from Pavano, Berkman doubled to drive in the go-ahead run for New York.Gardenhire was ejected moments later, following a mound visit with Pavano, when he began arguing with Wendelstedt about his non-strike call on Berkman. But the ejection wasn't an immediate lift for the club, as Derek Jeter added a run-scoring single to put the Twins down, 4-2. It was a missed call last year at Yankee Stadium in Game 2 that had left the Twins frustrated as well. With the game tied at 3 in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the ALDS, Joe Mauer hit a double down the left-field line that umpire Phil Cuzzi called foul. Replays showed that the ball was fair, and the Yankees capitalized on the Twins' denied opportunity with a Mark Teixeira walk-off homer in the bottom half of the inning. But on this night, Pavano didn't want to blame the missed strike call for the way things unfolded after it in the seventh inning. "I'm not worried about the pitch." Pavano said. "I threw a lot of pitches this year, and the last thing I worry about is if an umpire supposedly misses a pitch or not. My job is to go out there and make good pitches and execute good pitches, and I didn't do that."
0-2 Division Series deficits
Jeter's run-scoring single marked the end of Pavano's outing. He pitched six-plus inning while allowing four runs on 10 hits, and until that seventh frame, he managed to minimize the damage with a savvy performance -- particularly once the Yankees started swinging more aggressively the second time through the order.The Twins' bullpen worked out of a two-on, no out jam in the seventh and kept things close for a possible comeback. Yet, for the second straight night, the Twins couldn't find a way to rally in the late innings. Instead, it was yet another loss to the Yankees in which the Twins saw an early lead disappear and things go south shortly after they had managed to tie the game. After losing an early 1-0 lead given by Danny Valencia's sac fly in the second, Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson belted a game-tying home run off left-hander Andy Pettitte with one out in the sixth to make it a 2-2 game. The Twins made Pettitte work early in the contest, as he threw 36 pitches over the first two innings. But the crafty left-hander settled into his start -- retiring 12 straight batters at one point -- and for the majority of his outing, looked like a pitcher with a strong track record of postseason success. "He was as good as I've seen him in a few years," said Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer. "He had life on his cutter. He was spotting his sliders. He wasn't missing. He wasn't really giving much over the plate. He was hitting the corners and getting those corners called." Pettitte pitched seven innings, allowing the two runs on five hits, as he bested Pavano for a second straight year in the ALDS. The pitchers faced each other in Game 3 at the Metrodome last year, when the Yankees completed their sweep. But while the Yankees have managed to put the Twins in a tough spot, the reigning World Series champions are not ready to declare this series over just yet. "We want to try to win every game we play, but there's no cause for celebration, unless this is the best two out of three," said Jeter, who was on that '01 Yankees team. "We still haven't done anything yet." And the Twins hope to keep the Yankees from celebrating at all. "We have to figure out a way to beat the Yankees," Gardenhire said. "We haven't done that very well. I think it is documented and my job is figure out how we can go to New York and beat the Yankees and get back home."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.