Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Demons distracted in New York

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Twins game coverage Updated: May 16, 2010 - 5:58 PM

The Twins beating the Yankees and BP announcing success in containing the oil spill in the Gulf on the same day. Who would have thought?

Some of us have seen this Yankees-Twins nonsense in the past.

It was 25 years ago last Thursday when the Twins took an 8-0 lead over the Yankees after two innings. The Yankees chipped away and chipped away, and were trailing 8-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, two runners on base and Don Mattingly about to face Ron Davis.

In the Yankee Stadium press box, I recited as a typed: "Don Mattingly's two-out, two-on home run in the bottom of the ninth..."

POW!

Yankees 9, Twins 8.

So Cheater McSmug's grand slam on Friday night hardly surprised me. Neither did Saturday's lopsided loss. Back in the day, I saw the Twins lose games they should have won at Yankee Stadium and look defeated from the first inning at other times.

Sunday, as you could write for the Bulwer-Lytton bad-fiction contest, started out like any other day. The Twins took bad swings and played into sone bad fortune. A grounder that would have been an RBI single by Denard Span became a third-out force play when he deflected off the pitcher and slowed down. Michael Cuddyer smacked a line drive that turned into an inning-ending double play. Nick Blackburn pitched just well enough to trail 2-1 and then 3-1. The Yankees starter, Sergio Mitre, was getting guys out despite falling behind in nthe count way more often than not.

You could feel where this was going, and feel a bit guilty for spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon watching TV.

Then, well, you know the rest. You probably do.

Michael Cuddyer took an ugly swing and hit a soft liner that Mark Teixeira couldn't handle. That loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth and the Yankees went with Mariano Rivera to get one of those four-out saves that some people rag Joe Nathan about not getting.

God blinked.

Jim Thome went 3-and-0, then 3-and-2 and took a high pitch for ball four and a 3-2 game.

Then Jason Kubel socked  a knee-high and inside pitch over the right field wall.

The Twins held on through those final six outs -- including Jeter/Gardner/Teixeira strikeouts by Jon Rauch after he'd given up two singles to start the ninth.

Bodies hit the floor everywhere -- in celebration, in disbelief, in relief.

So what does it mean? As I blogged before the series -- a post that seemed to upset some of you -- it doesn't mean much. The Twins could have swept or gotten swept with the series having the same miniscule effect on what might happen if the teams meet again in October. The Twins still need to figure out how to make beating the Yankees something more than a novelty.

For now, the main thing is that the Twins will go to Toronto and Boston this week -- two places where they have gone 4-15 over the last three years -- in a frame of mind that doesn't have to be adjusted by pretending their weekend in New York never happened.

They will go with some revised muscle memory about hitting with the bases loaded, which has been one of the crazy themes of this season to date. Consider that in 2009, the Twins were .355/.394/.567 (average/on base/slugging percentage) in 170 bases-loaded plate appearances. Until Sunday, they were an excruciating .157/.197/.176 in their first 61 bases-loaded tries.

By pretending to be Thome or Kubel, maybe the rest of the Twins can become more like themselves.

 

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