Vazquez banged up his right index finger in his last start, bloodying the digit in a sacrifice bunt attempt at Citi Field. It was enough to force his early exit from that game, but he showed no ill effects during his bullpen session earlier this week. He's been deemed good to go tonight.
Nick Blackburn gets the start for the Twins. He was the starting pitcher in the series finale in New York the weekend before last, going seven innings and surrendering three runs on nine hits and a walk. It was enough for Blackburn to earn the win after the Yankee bullpen coughed up the game in the eighth inning. He followed that with 7.1 IP of three run ball against the Brewers last Friday, getting another win to run his 2010 record to 5-1.
Barring their fourth playoff meeting in the last eight seasons, this will be the final game between the Yankees and Twins this year. Since taking the helm in 2002, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been very successful, posting a .547 winning percentage and capturing five AL Central flags. But the Yankees have been his personal kryptonite.
Gardenhire is just 15-45 against the Yankees over the past eight plus seasons, not including his 2-9 mark against them in post-season play. His Twins lost their first 13 games against the Yankees, going winless in 2002 and 2003, and dropped 17 of 19 from 2002 through 2004. Through yesterday, they're just 7-22 against the Yanks since the start of the 2007 season.
Those are some pretty staggering numbers, but they don't begin to tell the tail of how things have been between these teams since the start of last season. In that time, including last year's ALDS, the Yankees are 14-1 against the Twins. The one loss came only after Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera combined for a two out eighth inning meltdown nearly two weeks ago, a game in which the Yankees had a 87% chance of winning with just four outs to go.
But of the 14 wins the Yankees have had, seven have been by a lone run. Two more have been by just two runs. Four of them are of the walkoff variety, three of them in extra innings. Over those 15 games, the Yankees have scored 78 runs and allowed 44, which equates to a pythagorean record 11-4, or three games worse than they've done in actuality against the Twins over the past year plus.
Yet even that doesn't tell the whole story. Aside from winning close games and outplaying the run differential, the Yanks have gotten an inordinate number of breaks: Phil Cuzzi's blown call on Joe Mauer's would-be double in Game Two of the ALDS. A-Rod's clutch game tying home run in the ninth inning of that same game - when the Yankees started the inning with 10% win expectancy. David Robertson's Houdini act to escape a bases loaded, no one out jam in the eleventh inning of that game. Game changing base running gaffes by Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto changing the tenor of Games Two and Three. J.J. Hardy's potential game tying blast dying on the warning track yesterday afternoon. Andy Pettitte wriggling out of jams in the seventh and eighth inning yesterday.
It's a wealth of good luck and more than anyone has a right to expect over fifteen games. For one more night at least, the Yanks hope that Sister Luck doesn't start screaming out the Twins name.
Sister Luck is screaming out[Song Notes: "Sister Luck" appeared on the Black Crowes debut album Shake Your Money Maker. It's been twenty years since that's been released and apparently the Crowes have decided this is a good time as any to take a little break. They'll be touring hard through the end of the year and then going on an indefinite hiatus. Part of that saddens me as this is a band that I've really enjoyed through the years. I'm going to try to catch a few shows before the year is out, starting next Friday on the Cape.
Somebody else's name
On the other hand, I suppose it's a good thing that they're calling it quits on relatively good terms, especially considering their often acrimonious history. Plus, their hiatus will allow Luther Dickinson to focus fully on the North Mississippi Allstars again, which can only be a good thing. And with any luck, just as they did after their 2001 hiatus, the Crowes will decide to come back after a few years, and do it with Marc Ford and Eddie Harsch back in the band.]
After a one game absence, Brett Gardner returns to the two spot, with Nick Swisher going back to sixth in the order. Juan Miranda gets the nod at DH after crushing a long, loud out in a pinch hitting appearance last night. Francisco Cervelli starts his tenth straight game behind the dish and Kevin Russo gets his fourth straight start in left field and fifth in the last six games.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Juan Miranda DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Kevin Russo LF
Span CFHudson 2BMauer CMorneau 1BThome DHCuddyer RFKubel LFHardy SSCasilla 3B