Sunday, April 16, 2006

This will do nothing to help my addiction to Twins baseball, I'm afraid.

Yesterday I went to the best baseball game I have EVER seen.

The Twins' second game of a three-game series at home against the Yankees.

This was a perfect set-up for me, because I have an unhealthy kind of love for the Minnesota Twins, an intense hatred for Steinbrenner and the Yankees, and the Metrodome was packed with over 40,000 people just like me.

Thanks to a poor decision to change pitchers, the game was unneccesarily dramatic. Once the Yankees had a 5-4 lead in the 8th, lots of people started leaving the Dome, trying to beat traffic. Those poor folks missed out on the most amazing 9th inning save. I just keep watching it over and over. I can't believe I was lucky enough to be there to witness it.

Nothing I can say about the game is better than this Mike Bauman piece from
MINNEAPOLIS -- There are individual baseball games that are so rich in detail and unexpected twists and turns, not to mention tension and drama, that they serve to remind you all by themselves why so many of us care about the sport in the first place.

One of those games was played at the Metrodome on Saturday night between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins. The Twins won, 6-5, with a ninth-inning comeback against Mariano Rivera. This in itself would set the game well apart from the norm, but here it was just one part of what made this game special.

Every reasonable expectation was defeated in this game. The Twins were certain to win. No, the Yanks were certain to win. Finally, it was the Twins again.

But you have to set the scene. It's Saturday night and there are 42,316 people in the Dome, or more than three times what the Twins drew Thursday against Oakland. These people are here for the Twins, but they are also here to see the Yankees.

"It's always fun to play the Yankees," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They bring a certain aura to the ballpark." ...

...So the place is an indoor madhouse, anyway. The Twins have won four straight coming in, they look like contenders once more, and the local population is ready to see its Davids put a hurting on the Bronx Goliaths...

...Santana does not have full command of his changeup or his breaking pitch, and he is, after all, in against the Yankees. The Yanks get two runs back in the fifth, and when Santana allows two baserunners in the seventh, he is pulled for Jesse Crain. The normally reliable Crain gives up three straight hits to the relentless Yankees offense, and by the time this inning is over, New York is up, 5-4....

..."Taking Santana out, that's not one of the favorite things a manager likes to do," Gardenhire said. "But he's basically pitching with a fastball, coming up to the middle of their lineup. And then we come in and give up boom, boom, boom. And then his runs are in and we're behind, and that's a miserable feeling.

"There are ups and downs during the course of any game, but playing those guys over there, it's non-stop from the first inning on, because they're that good of a baseball team and they have that many great players."

And one of the great players is Rivera, the premier closer of this generation. He gets the Yankees out of the eighth with a double-play ball. And then he takes the ball for the ninth. This will be, of course, his 381st save, and he will be just nine away from Dennis Eckersley and fourth place on the all-time list.

But Luis Castillo pounds the ball into the artificial surface just a few feet up the third-base line and legs out an infield single. Joe Mauer follows with a hit-and-run single to left. Castillo beats Hideki Matsui's throw to third, and Mauer moves to second on the throw.

But Rivera takes matters into his own hands again, striking out Rondell White and Torii Hunter. What a save this will be after runners were on second and third with nobody out.

And then on the next offering, first baseman Justin Morneau, his bat broken on the pitch, hits a ball that just barely gets over the outstretched glove of Robinson Cano and into right field. The Twins win. It is not a line drive. It is not a rope. But it is a game-winning hit off Rivera and it beats the Yankees.

"I broke a bat and found a hole," Morneau says with due modesty.

It is not in him to boast about a broken-bat looper, but he understands what this means.

"It's big," Morneau says. "To come back on him, he's one of the best closers in the history of the game, not just right now. He's been in that situation a lot of times and he's usually the one who wins. It was nice to see us shaking hands instead of them shaking hands. I broke a bat and found a hole. Sometimes, that's what you have to do against a guy like that."

It was just a completely unbelievable game to watch. I like the feeling of knowing that a team filled with the best players money can buy can go down to the team from Minnesota once in a while.

And it was nice to see Kirby Puckett's number on the field again too...even posthumously.


Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

That was beautiful. I'm so happy about this. Perfect.

April 16, 2006 5:57 PM  
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