Final

Playoff Series: Game 1 of 4

NY Yankees won 3-1

Game 1: Tuesday, September 30
Minnesota3Final
NY Yankees1
Game 2: Thursday, October 2
Minnesota1Final
NY Yankees4
Game 3: Saturday, October 4
NY Yankees3Final
Minnesota1
Game 4: Sunday, October 5
NY Yankees8Final
Minnesota1

Twins 3

 

    1:00 PM ET, September 30, 2003

    Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York 

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    MIN 001002000 3 8 0
    NYY 000000001 1 9 1

    W: L. Hawkins (1-0)

    L: M. Mussina (0-1)

    S: E. Guardado (1)

    Twins beat bumbling Yanks after 13 straight losses

    ESPN The Magazine

    NEW YORK -- As the Yankees ran out of outs in Game 1 of the Division Series, the grumbling from the Yankee Stadium crowd increased in intensity and the chins of the hitters seemed to drop further with each strikeout. The Yankees' tradition and great expectations had once been a weapon for them. Now it looks like a burden.

    Game 1 breakdown
    Hero
    LaTroy Hawkins. He was nearly unhittable in his two innings -- seventh and eighth -- of work, striking out four while walking none. In all, he threw 27 pitches, 21 for strikes.

    Goat
    Bernie Williams. Letting the ball Torii Hunter hit to the right-center gap in the top of the sixth inning get past him and go to the wall was pivotal as it allowed the Twins to have a big inning. Not only did Matthew LeCroy score all the way from first base on the play, but Hunter also scored when Alfonso Soriano took the relay from Williams and threw it wild past third base.

    Turning Point
    With runners on first and third and out in the bottom of the seventh, Hawkins came up big by striking out Soriano and Nick Johnson to end the inning. In striking out Soriano, Hawkins threw a perfect pitch -- a fastball -- on the outside part of the plate that Soriano swung through.

    It Figures
    Leaving runners on base usually proves disastrous for teams and that was definitely the case for the Yankees. The Yanks stranded 10 runners, including five in scoring position.

    On Deck
    The Twins will send Brad Radke to the mound against the Yankees in Game 2. Radke was 9-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 14 starts in the second half. The Yankees will counter with Andy Pettitte, who led the team with 21 wins during the regular season.

    The Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, almost bounced off the field, after winning, 3-1, to take the first game in the best-of-five series. There is a respite in the series Wednesday, giving the Twins 48 hours to rest a bullpen that contributed five strong innings in Game 1, 48 hours to relax and enjoy New York.

    But for 48 hours, the Yankees must try not to think about what might happen. They looked very flat in Game 1, playing sloppily, making mistakes, looking very little like a World Series favorite and more like they did when they were swiftly eliminated by Anaheim in the 2002 Division Series.

    "We've got to show up on Thursday," said catcher Jorge Posada. "I know we can do it, I know we'll show up on Thursday."

    Said Minnesota left fielder Shannon Stewart: "This is a huge win."

    The Yankees had beaten the Twins in the last 13 regular-season meetings between the two teams, and New York starter Mike Mussina was 20-2 in his career against the Minnesota. But that history did not matter; if anything, the Yankees looked more like they did when they were swiftly eliminated by Anaheim in the 2002 Division Series, playing sloppily, making mistakes.

    And they caught a break on an unexpected injury, after getting dominated early by Johan Santana, the Twins starter.

    Santana appears to throw from a relatively low arm angle, making it difficult for the hitters to pick up the ball; they constantly react just a little late, as if Santana is throwing from 55 feet instead of 60 feet, 6 inches. Right-handed hitters kept peeling fouls into the stands along the right field foul line, while left-handed batters fouled balls into the stands behind third base.

    Santana struggled to throw any of his secondary pitches for strikes in his four innings, his slider spinning high, his changeup often flopping in the dirt. But his fastball was so good -- masked by the deception built into his delivery -- that the Yankees rarely mustered healthy swings against Santana, even when they knew he had to throw a fastball.

    Right-handed hitters kept peeling fouls into the stands along the left field side. "He was tough," said Soriano.

    The Twins scored a run in the third, after Alfonso Soriano failed to bare-hand an infield single by Cristian Guzman, and in the bottom of the fourth, the Yankees' Nick Johnson walked with two outs. Derek Jeter got ahead in the count 2 balls and 0 strikes, and with Jason Giambi on deck. It was a great situation for Jeter, knowing that Santana had to throw a fastball.

    And Santana did throw a fastball, 92 mph. But Jeter swung late, fouling off the pitch. The count went to 3-1, another hitter's count, another situation in which Jeter knew he could hack at a fastball. And Santana did throw a fastball, 91 mph. But Jeter swung late again, fouling the ball off.

    Jeter eventually walked, but Santana struck out Giambi on three pitches, Santanta's third strikeout in four innings.

    Santana went back to the dugout, but as he sat on the bench, he felt his right hamstring camp -- an occasional problem with his left leg during the regular season. Gardenhire scanned the lineup card and began matching up his relievers, the Twins' right-handers against the Yankees' right-handers, lefties vs. lefties, and the call went to the bullpen. "The phone rang and we were like, 'Oh, my God,'" said Hawkins.

    Rick Reed got a couple of outs, before J.C. Romero took over to get the last out in the fifth. The Twins still had four innings to go, and their margin for error still very slim, with the Yankees trailing by only a run.

    That would change in the top of the sixth. Twins DH Matt LeCroy pulled a single inside the third base leading off against Mussina. Jacque Jones struck out, but with Mussina's pitch count climbing toward 100, Torii Hunter smashed a line drive into short right-center field, the ball skipping low. Bernie Williams moved over to cut the ball off, appearing as if he had an easy play and would be able to hold LeCroy at second.

    But the ball skidded low on the outfield grass -- veering to Williams' left, he said after the game -- and the speed of the bounder appeared to surprise Williams, rolling past him. LeCroy rumbled to third and was waved home as Williams retrieved the ball, and when Hunter sprinted around second and decided to try for an extra base, cut-off man Alfonso Soriano fired toward third.

    Soriano's throw sailed high, however, bouncing off the facing of the seats on the third base side and a rolling away from third baseman Aaron Boone. By the time Boone recovered the ball and threw home, Hunter had swiped his hand across home plate with Minnesota's third run. "It was unfortunate," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, "but you have to make the plays, obviously, when you play in postseason, because they are magnified."

    Hideki Matsui and Boone reached base to start the Yankees' seventh inning, but with one out, reliever LaTroy Hawkins blew away Soriano with a 96 mph fastball, then Nick Johnson with a chest-high 97 mph fastball.

    Hawkins picked up two more strikeouts in the eighth inning, before Twins closer Eddie Guardado took over for the ninth. Williams singled, and Hideki Matsui drove a ball deep to the left field wall. Stewart retreated, jumped and made the catch in front of the outstretched hands of fans, banging against the wall and falling. "At first I was like, 'Whew,'" said Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "and then I was thinking, 'Thank God, not Jeffrey Maier' " -- the kid who reached out to pull in Derek Jeter's home run in the 1996 playoffs.

    A run scored on Soriano's infield single, but Guardado retired Johnson with a week grounder, and amid the muttering of departing fans, the voices of a couple of dozen happy Minnesota players could be heard.

    It could have all turned badly for the Twins in the innings that followed Santana's injury. But the four relievers combined to get the last 15 outs, Santana figures to be ready to pitch Game 4 with even more rest than expected, and the Twins' bullpen can rest Wednesday.

    The day off might only increase the anxiety for the Yankees. Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' starter in Game 2, has recent postseason failure hanging on his psyche: he failed to get out of the third inning in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series and couldn't reach the fourth inning in Game 2 of last year's Division Series, and the Yankees were beaten each time.

    Pettitte and the other Yankees have an extra 24 hours to think about what went wrong in Game 1, what went wrong last year, and what could go wrong. The pressure on the Yankees builds.

    Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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