The Yankees bested the Minnesota Twins 5-2 Thursday night at Target Field in game two of their division series, putting them again on the verge of being swept out of the baseball playoffs.
The Yankees need just one more win to advance -- but the Twins must win all three to do so. And the next two games are scheduled in New York.
Twins outfielder Jason Kubel summed it up nicely after last night's game.
"It's been years and we haven't beaten them," Kubel said. "We keep saying maybe this will be the time. It's not going the way we'd like it now -- I mean, it's not over yet."
But the Twins are again in a deep hole against the Yankees, thanks to more strong pitching and just enough offense from New York. Last night's 5-2 verdict was the eighth straight playoff win the Yankees have tallied against the Twins. And in every one of those eight games, the Twins at some point had a lead that they gave up.
"We didn't' get it done tonight; they got it done," said Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire. "They got some hits; we played hard ... and it didn't work out for us. A tough loss for us, a tough night, and we have a big hill to climb."
The key for the Yankees was starting pitcher Andy Pettite. Despite recent struggles coming back from an injury, Pettite lived up to his reputation as one of the game's best playoff pitchers ever. He admitted after the game he felt unprepared, but was able to focus.
"I felt I was going to have a good outing. I got locked in mechanically, I felt great. The ball was coming out of my hand good," Pettite said.
Pettitte ended the night giving up just five hits over seven innings, at one point retiring 12 Twins batters in order.
Twins starter Carl Pavano pitched six strong innings, but ran into trouble in the seventh. Designated hitter Lance Berkman doubled to leftfield, knocking in a run and giving the Yankees the lead.
The pitch right before that hit was close, and fans thought it was a strike that would have ended Berkman's at-bat. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also thought so and was ejected a few minutes later arguing the point to home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Twins fans appeared to be behind Gardenhire.
"I thought the ball was a strike; he didn't call it a strike, and I wanted to make sure he knew that," Gardenhire said.
After Gardy's ejection, the Yankees added another run in that seventh inning to go up 4-2. The Twins never mounted a comeback, going down in order in the 7th and 8th innings, striking out four times in the process. The Yankees added a run in the ninth that they didn't need, not with ace reliever Mariano Rivera finishing the game and picking up his second save in two nights.
Thursday night marked the Twins' 11th playoff loss to the Yankees in their history. That ties the Twins with Boston as the American League team that's lost the most playoff games to the Yankees.
Sporting his rally cap toward the end of the game, Tommy Hanlon of Eagan contemplated his team's chances going into Saturday's game three in New York.
"Odds are not in our favor; stats aren't in our favor, but this is a different team this year, so I'd like to see what happens 0-2, going to New York," Hanlon said. "They have something to prove."
Hanlon said he's hopeful, but he is right about one thing -- the stats are not in the Twins' favor. Teams have fallen behind 0-2 in a best-of-five series 61 times throughout baseball history. Only seven have ever come back to win.