Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ALDS Game 1: Guess I Planted

When the Twins beat the Tigers last night, it ensured that there would be at least one team in the AL side of the playoff bracket that the Yankees had beaten in the postseason more recently than they had lost to.

Coincidentally, that was also the last postseason series that A-Rod had played in before being labeled a hopeless choke artist. He hit .421/.476/.737 in those four games back in 2004 and drove in three runs including one on a game-tying ground rule double in the 12th inning of Game 2 off of Joe Nathan. That happened at the Old Stadium but Alex will be looking to start anew across the street this evening.

At about 6:07, CC Sabathia will stride towards the mound and deliver the first postseason pitch ever thrown at the New Yankee Stadium. He will be trying to conquer some playoff demons of his own. The last non-regular season quality start he had in October was back in 2001.

In his four postseason outings since then, he's given up 20 ER and 27 hits in 19 IP while walking 17 and striking out 19. The lack of command is the most alarming trend for a pitcher who walks about 3 men per 9 IP in the regular season. Right or wrong, his season will be judged in large part by what he does from here on out. But both he and A-Rod can get that monkey off their backs with a good performance; the sooner the better.

The Twins send Brian Duensing to the mound tonight. You don't often see a team have to send an emergency starter to the mound in Game 1 of a playoff series, but that's exactly what's going down tonight. Deunsing is from Omaha and was actually a teammate of Joba Chamberlain's at the University of Nebraska.

He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft (84th overall) and unlike his former teammate gradually worked his way up through the minor leagues, finally making his debut with the Twins this year. In addition to 15 relief appearances, Deunsing made 9 starts for the Twins, going 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA in 52.2 IP. Eight of those 9 starts came after August 22nd, so the sample might be small, but it's pretty recent. He's not a big "three true outcomes" kind of a guy since he doesn't walk or strikeout many and doesn't yield many home runs.

Amazingly, Duensing has never even been to New York City before. Welcome to the Big Apple, kid. Now here's the ball. You've only gotta hurl it against the best home run hitting team the Yankees have ever assembled with major gusts of wind whipping out towards the outfield in an already tight ballpark against a former Cy Young winner with an exhausted defense behind you.

Even given Sabathia's previous postseason struggles, and Deunsing's success in the starting role, it seems like deck is stacked towards the Yankees in a big way. If must-win Game 1, can actually exist, I think we are looking at it.

Coming off the 12th inning win last night, the Twins aren't going to be well rested. They're starting a rookie pitcher in what will be his 10th major league start. They crushed the Twins in the season series 7-0, although that didn't work out do well against the Indians back in '07. By virtue of having the best record in the AL, they earned the right to take on the weakest team coming into the playoffs and start on their homefield. Now it's time to take advantage.

Let's go Yanks.

Hungry for the union,
And so we kept on,
Singing and working, fighting 'til we got it,
And this is the big union song I guess I hear.

Union song, union battled,
All added up, won us all what we got now,
Union song, union battled,
All added up, won us all what we got now.

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