10/07/09 12:25 AM ET
Yanks have had Twins' number in '09
New York took all seven meetings against Minnesota
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Their prize? "The Bronx Bombers," said Ron Darling, a commentator for TBS, who called the game. "They're going to play a heck of a team in the Bronx."
The best-of-five AL Division Series is slated to begin on Wednesday night at 6:07 p.m. ET, with 19-game winner CC Sabathia going for New York and five-game winner Brian Duensing getting the start for Minnesota in a battle of left-handers.
At game time, the weather is expected to be clear and windy, with the temperature in the low 60s.
It will be the first playoff game at the new Yankee Stadium, coming as the grand old yard is being taken down piece-by-piece just across 161st Street. The Yanks won 103 games and walked away with the AL East. The Twins won 87 games to take the AL Central in game No. 163 and won't have a breather before facing the Bombers.
"I really don't feel like we have any advantage with them playing [on Tuesday night]," Yankees second-year manager Joe Girardi said.
It should be noted that when the Twins defeated the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series, they won only 85 regular-season games. In '91 when they beat the Braves, the Twins won 95. Both series went seven games. Minnesota is 8-0 in World Series games at the Metrodome, but 0-6 on the road. To get back to the Dome with any chance of winning this series, the Twins will have to at least split the two games in the Bronx, where they are 2-23 since Ron Gardenhire took over for Tom Kelly as manager prior to the 2002 season.
And oh yes, the last time New York won a postseason series was a four-game 2004 ALDS victory over Minnesota before blowing a 3-0 lead and losing to Boston in a seven-game AL Championship Series. The Yanks also won the 2003 ALDS in four games over the Twins on their way to losing to the Marlins in that World Series.
"Minnesota plays more of a National League-style game," Andy Pettitte, New York's Game 3 starter, said as the team worked out at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. "They can be very dangerous."
But the reality of it is this: the Twins haven't won in the Bronx since July 4, 2007, and have lost eight in a row. They dropped a four-game series in the new stadium from May 15-18, but each game was a one-run affair, and in each game, the Yanks had to come from behind to win, two of them in extra innings.
In their two postseason series, the Twins split the opening two games at the old stadium, winning the opener both times, only to be swept in the Metrodome.
"We're a pretty good road team," said Yanks pitcher Chad Gaudin about a club which was 46-35 on the road this season, the second best in the Majors behind the Angels and Phillies, who each finished 48-33. "It doesn't matter where we play. The Yanks win everywhere."
It is a confident team that comes into its playoff opener with a goal of winning the World Series for the 27th time in franchise history and first since 2000. To put that latter figure into some perspective, 22 big league teams have had longer World Series droughts than the Yanks, including some whoppers: Cubs (1908), Indians ('48), Giants ('54), Mets ('86) and Dodgers ('88). The Pirates haven't had a winning season since '92 and the Royals have had only one since the strike season of '94. The Astros, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Padres, Nationals/Expos, Brewers and Rockies have never won one.
The Bombers have been to the playoffs 14 times in the past 15 years, after missing last season. Two Octobers ago, in their final playoff series at the old stadium, the Yanks lost in four games to the Indians, including the finale across the street.
"It's a lot different team," Girardi said of this year's club in comparison to '07, the last season of Joe Torre's stewardship. "I sense that there was a determination after what we went through last year when we didn't make the playoffs. You don't play this game and put all that hard work in to just make the playoffs. There's a goal set. And the goal was set when we went to work last winter.
"So I think our guys are very determined. We have some guys that have been here for a lot of championships. And then we have some guys that have playoff experience. And everyone wants another championship."
The Twins have been to the postseason nine times since moving from Washington to Minnesota in 1961. They are the prototype of the successful small-market team -- in contention almost every season, but not deep enough to win it all. In this decade, they've won five division titles, but have only taken one of their five previous playoff series -- the 2002 ALDS over the A's in five tough games. That postseason, the Twins were drummed out of the ALCS by the eventual World Series-winning Angels in five games.
But Minnesota goes into Wednesday evening's game having won 17 of its past 21, and it is the first team in Major League Baseball history to come back from a three-game deficit with four to play.
The Twins had to roar back from scores of 3-0 and 5-4 to beat the Tigers, 6-5, on Tuesday night in extra innings.
"This is absolutely the most unbelievable game I have ever played [in] or seen," said shortstop Orlando Cabrera, whose two-run seventh-inning homer gave the Twins a short-lived 4-3 lead. "I'm really proud of my teammates. "When we were down, we got together and we had to pull it out. Here we are -- we're going to the postseason."
And here we are, with Game 1 set at new Yankee Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.