Burying the Yankee demons
17 Apr 2012 by sirsean
For years, the Twins have had demons in New York. Bats go silent; pitches get fat; calls don't go their way; in the rare case they have a lead, they let it get away. The fans and media have long suspected that the Twins' abysmal record against the Yankees over the past decade has been due to the supposed fact that the Yankees are in the Twins' heads.
Former fan-favorites Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer "admitted" as much, saying that everyone else on the team except for them (of course) were "nervous, all nervous", and that the Twins were "mentally down" when they had to face the Yankees. It was good of them to keep themselves out of the admission -- after all, they couldn't have possibly been culprits, it's not like they were the leaders of those teams or anything -- and even better because their accusations were simply not based in fact.
In Monday night's game against the Yankees, then, it sure seemed like those old demons would come back to haunt the Twins. In the first inning, Jamey Carroll was called out on a stolen base attempt by Phil Cuzzi, on a call that replay showed was incorrect. (You may recall that Phil Cuzzi was the left field umpire in that playoff game who called Joe Mauer's double "foul" when replay showed it landed over a foot fair.) When that was immediately followed by a Mauer double, it quite clearly cost the Twins a run.
And when the Twins' 2-0 first inning lead immediately turned into a 3-2 first inning deficit, memories of previous collapses came rushing back. Pavano struggled in that first inning, and looked like he didn't have it. They'd be spending the whole night burning through the bullpen, getting blown out and setting themselves up for struggles not only through the rest of the series but throughout the road trip. It's easy, I think, for an opponent to get into a fan's head: all you get to do is sit and watch, and wonder, and panic.
But the players didn't share that panic, at least not on that night. Pavano bounced back and completed six more innings, finishing with 7 IP, 7 H, 6 K, 1 BB, and 3 R. If you'd been told before the game that he'd do that, you'd have jumped all over it. The defense made big plays when they needed it -- not least Casilla's diving grab on a shot up the middle and glove-flip to Carroll to prevent what could have been a dangerous late-inning rally. And the offense didn't give up when the early lead disappeared; no, they came back and re-took the lead in the fifth, and later added some comfort in the eighth.
It was a good win that ultimately probably doesn't mean much. But the performance of Mauer and Morneau made it a Hollywood script. With Mauer's three hits, he's amassed 1107 on his career and passed Michael Cuddyer for 10th in Twins history. With Morneau's 6th inning home run, he passed Torii Hunter for the 7th-most RBI in Twins history.
I'm guessing that the Twins weren't thinking about Hunter and Cuddyer, or even the possibility of burying their Yankee-colored demons. That kind of thinking is more for fans than players. Still, for one night, it sure was nice to be able to say "suck it, Torii and Cuddyer".
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