Twins need a perfect night to get even with Yankees

Updated: October 8, 2009

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

A.J. Burnett will take to the mound for Game 2 with Jose Molina -- not Jorge Posada -- behind the plate.

Yankee Stadium was electric Wednesday night, and the Bronx Bombers will look to carry the momentum from their Game 1 victory against the Twins into Game 2 on Friday at Yankee Stadium. This time, the Minnesota Twins must have a game plan.

A.J. Burnett

Starting Pitcher
New York Yankees

Profile

2009 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
33 13 9 97 195 4.04

It's important for the Twins' batters to be patient early against A.J. Burnett. They have to make sure that he has command of his pitches and that he's throwing strikes. They can't help him out by chasing the high fastball or swing at the breaking ball out of the zone early on. Burnett is going to throw strikes … so make him throw strikes. The game plan for the Twins should be to stay patient.

Twins starter Nick Blackburn has his work cut out for him. Hey, anybody facing the Yankees' lineup does! The key for him is to try to keep the ball down in the zone, get ground balls and let his defense work behind him. He has to keep a quick tempo going. If Blackburn can perfect it, hitters won't have as much time to anticipate where he's going with the pitch.

Nick Blackburn

Starting Pitcher
Minnesota Twins

Profile

2009 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
33 11 11 41 98 4.03
What went right in Game 1? CC Sabathia. And Derek Jeter. And Alex Rodriguez.

Jeter is Mr. October, no question about it. It also was important for Rodriguez to get a couple of hits to release that internal pressure he's been carrying around with him. The Yankees are truly a force to be reckoned with.

What went wrong in Game 1? The Twins were tired. They played an extra-inning game the night before against the Tigers, got to New York at 3 or 4 a.m., then had to show up just hours later and practice. I think the adrenaline wore off after the first couple of innings, and once things settled in, Minnesota started laying pitches over the heart of the plate. The Yankees simply outlasted the Twins.

If Minnesota plans to take Game 2, it needs to be perfect. The Twins are going to have to execute pitches, do some damage control with runners on base, hit and be very selective with every decision. The only situation in which they wouldn't have to be perfect is if Burnett is completely erratic. The thing is, if he is, the Yankees have the bullpen to back him up. They have guys who can close the gap to get them to the seventh inning. Joba Chamberlain is in the bullpen, and he has stretched out a little bit, so he's capable, in theory, of pitching three innings. Chamberlain had a chance to rest Thursday, so he'll be nice and fresh in time for Friday's big game in the Bronx.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 7 | Oct. 6 | Oct. 5 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 1

PLAYOFF WATCH: FRIDAY'S MATCHUPS

Red Sox at Angels, 9:37 p.m. ET

Josh Beckett says his back feels fine as heads into his Game 2 start against the Angels. Beckett closed the regular season by going 3-0 in his final four starts. He was, however, 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts in the regular season against the Angels. Jered Weaver, meanwhile, breezed through Boston in his two regular-season outings, going 1-0 with a 0.66 ERA. The Red Sox managed just eight hits and one earned run in 13 2/3 innings against Weaver.

For the rest of the playoff schedule, click here.


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BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Buck Showalter, Eduardo Perez
1 a.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Buck Showalter, Eduardo Perez

BBTN MINUTE: YANKEES' CATCHER ISSUES

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the Dodgers, who scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning to steal a 3-2 win over the Cardinals and take a 2-0 lead in their NLDS.

Dodgers postseason walk-off hits (All-time)
Mark Loretta 2009* NLDS
Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series
Bill Russell 1978 NLCS
Jackie Robinson 1956 World Series
Cookie Lavagetto 1947* World Series

* Dodgers trailed going into the ninth inning

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
John LackeyJohn Lackey helped the Angels take the first step toward reversing their postseason fortunes against the Red Sox. The right-hander tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings as the Angels took the first game of their ALDS. Lackey scattered four hits, struck out four and handed out a lone walk.
WORST
Matt Holliday• Hard to avoid putting Matt Holliday in this category. Sure, he hit a home run, but the soft liner hit his way with two outs in the ninth would have ended the game and given the Cardinals a one-run win over the Dodgers. Instead, he lost it in the lights, it hit him in the gut and the Dodgers scored twice to steal a 3-2 win and will take a 2-0 series lead to St. Louis.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

A.J Burnett After 11 seasons and 244 career starts, A.J. Burnett finally will make his first postseason start as the Yankees face the Twins in Game 2 of their ALDS on Friday.

Burnett finished the season strong, going 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his final four starts. Jose Molina was Burnett's catcher for each of those starts and will get the call behind the plate again when Burnett takes the hill Friday.

Burnett won both his starts against the Twins this season, allowing only four earned runs, but he did allow 23 baserunners in his 13 innings pitched. Burnett's off-speed stuff baffled left-handed hitters all year, but the Twins' lefty bats found success in this area.

The absence of Justin Morneau is a welcome sight for Burnett, but Joe Mauer obviously will be a challenge. Mauer hit .345 against curveballs from righties this season, and he is 5-13 (.385) in his career against Burnett.

Burnett's curveball vs. left-handed hitters (2009)
vs. Twins vs. rest of majors
BA against .400 .103
Miss pct. against 30 47

-- ESPN Stats & Information

THIS DATE IN "THAT'S NASTY" HISTORY

Each night throughout the postseason, "Baseball Tonight" will remember some of the postseason's best pitching performances.

Oct. 9, 2001 -- Curt Schilling struck out nine and pitched a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 Diamondbacks win over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS. In the past 35 years, Schilling, Jack Morris (1991 World Series), Mike Scott (1986 NLCS) and Vida Blue (1974 ALCS) are the only pitchers to go the distance in a 1-0 shutout in a postseason game.