MINNEAPOLIS -- "The ruling was a base hit," it was announced in the press box, about three hours and 45 minutes into Game 1 of this AL Division Series. The ruling was wrong.
Here, you began to wonder: is this how the Yankees' years dominance of the Twins start to end -- due to a bogus call? Was that the little extra push that Minnesota needed, however artificial? You wondered that for about two minutes, and then Rivera needed only a single pitch -- a cutter, of course -- to induce from Thome a weak pop-up to Rodriguez at third, and the Yankees had won here, again. It was the seventh playoff game the Yankees have won in Minneapolis, in seven tries, and their 15th win in their last 17 games against the Twins, and it seemed in many ways to be an extension of last year's ALDS sweep.
Once again, as they had in all three games last year, the Twins raced out to an early lead. In the second inning,
"It felt like we were in the ninth inning -- and we were in the third," said Swisher. "But there was no panic." Once again, as they did last season, the Yankees lineup steadily ate away at the Twins, like an antibiotics-resistant bacteria. In the sixth, they broke through against
"Just missing my spot," Liriano said, again and again like a mantra, to explain how he suddenly yielded a double to
The Twins tied the game at 4-4 on a bases-loaded walk by
It is both easy and tempting -- even for Twins fans, normally an upbeat lot, but one that filed out of their limestone-accented new stadium grumbling and cursing -- to look at how this game played out and assume that since it seems to be the continuation of a pattern from last October (and, in fact, from both 2003 and '04, when the Yankees beat the Twins in the ALDS, too), that the pattern will continue for two more games, and that will again be that for Minnesota. Easy, tempting, and wrong, says
He is right: just because the Twins didn't appear to be different in Game 1, doesn't mean that they are not, or can't be -- deeper, more mature, more dangerous. And the Yankees are different too -- particularly
A lot of "hopefully's," to be sure. It will be incumbent on the Twins to exploit that uncertainty, and to show that the pattern we might detect in their recent playoff history against the Yankees is merely a coincidence, if an extended one, and not how it always must be. A Game 1 loss to the Yankees' ace doesn't mean that history will again ultimately repeat itself for the Twins. Losses in both Games 1 and 2, followed by a trip to Yankee Stadium, will almost certainly ensure that it will.