Jim Souhan: Yankees are better, and the Twins know it

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2010 - 5:27 AM

The Twins simply must face up to facts, after losing to the Bronx Bombers for the eighth consecutive playoff meeting.

In their pantheon of playoff failures, the Twins have never given themselves less reason for hope two games into a series, have never before flown to New York facing elimination in the graveyard of dreams that is Yankee Stadium.

The Yanks might be putting up another slab in Monument Park soon to honor Minnesota's contributions to their legacy. After losing 5-2 Thursday night at Target Field, the Twins boarded a charter to their Temple of Doom, offering perfunctory declarations of determination, whether they believed them or not.

Their task now is simple and brutal: Win two games in the Bronx to force a deciding game in Minnesota.

To survive this trip to the land of bedbugs and bedlam, the Twins need to do more than defy their own pathetic history against the Yankees. They need to overcome a superior team in an ominous setting with no margin for error.

While the Twins' failures against New York defy the laws of probability, the explanation for their futility has become obvious: The Yankees are the vastly superior team.

A wise man once said that it's hard to beat a team when they know they're better than you are, and they know that you know that they're better than you are.

After eight consecutive playoff losses to the Yankees, including two in Target Field this week, the Twins might be getting the hint.

In 2003 and 2004, the Twins won Game 1 in Yankee Stadium, came close to winning Game 2 and headed to the Metrodome believing they could close out the Yanks. They were wrong.

In 2009, the Twins, exhausted after Game 163, lost two in the Bronx and headed home hoping to weave one last miracle into their tapestry of Metrodome magic. They lost.

They've lost 11 playoff games in a row now and their past eight playoff games against the Yankees, dating to 2004, and the script could not be more predictable if it were a sequel to "Groundhog Day.''

Take a lead. Give your fans false hope. Blow the lead. Watch the Yankees celebrate. Deny the existence of a curse.

The truth is, the Yankees need no voodoo.

They've won this series because they have a true ace in CC Sabathia and an October hero in Andy Pettitte to pitch Game 2. Because they employ veteran hitters who wear out pitchers and victimize bullpens, hitters who foul off nasty pitches and launch hangers into the bleachers.

Because they sign the most expensive free agents -- Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were beyond the means of just about every other team -- and re-sign any player they value, even aging shortstops who lack power and catchers who can't throw.

Because they trade for former All-Stars to fill their bench (part-time DH Lance Berkman homered and doubled on Thursday) and bullpen (Kerry Wood pitched a dominant eighth).

"That's what the Yankees do,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They build a lineup. Then they build a bench.''

If the Yankees are a bouillabaisse of current and former stars, the Twins, by comparison, look as thin as matzo ball soup.

Our local nine was built to survive a long summer of competition against middling Midwestern competition. The Yankees were built to beat the best teams in baseball.

"I keep saying this: Hopefully we can turn it around,'' outfielder Jason Kubel said. "We definitely haven't done it in the playoffs. Somehow, they've got our number. We keep saying, 'Hopefully it will turn around next game,'' so, hopefully it will turn around next game.'''

The composed Brian Duensing takes the mound in Game 3. If the Twins survive, their reward will be an elimination game at the Stadium against Sabathia.

"We've got a big hill to climb,'' Gardenhire said. "It's not going to be easy, but it can be done. We've seen it done before.''

Maybe in the movies or when Curt Schilling wears an oozing sock.

The problem for the Twins is, they're facing superior team, and they know it, and they know the Yankees know they know it.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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