Francisco Liriano pitched like an ace and was in line for the win through five innings. Unfortunately for the Twins, there are nine innings in a baseball game, and after the sixth inning, things came unraveled and the New York Yankees took control.
Michael Cuddyer’s two run home run, a small-ball special run scored by Orlando Hudson, and Liriano’s five shutout innings left the Twins with an 85.1% win probability entering the sixth inning. The Twins slow and excruciating fall from grace came primarily on two pitches. The first came on a two out Curtis Granderson triple in that sixth inning which took nearly 30% off the Twins win probability, lowering it to 36.5%. The Twins managed to tie the game on possibly the unlikeliest bases-loaded walk in postseason history (Danny Valencia off CC Sabathia). The Twins bullpen couldn’t hold the tie, though, as Mark Teixeira deivered what would be the death blow in the 7th with a two-run, barely fair home run off Jesse Crain. The Yanks took a 6-4 lead and the Twins win expectancy was down to 21.5%. The Yankees bullpen proceeded to close the door on game one, primarily behind a four-out save from the legendary Mariano Rivera.
For the Twins, Liriano simply couldn’t get past the third time through the order. The first two times through, Liriano struck out five batters and allowed only four baserunners. The third time through – entirely in the sixth inning – the Yankees went 4-7 with a walk against Liriano and scored four runs.
At the plate, the Twins left handed batters were mostly neutralized. Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel combined to go 2-15 with three walks and a hit by pitch. The first three names in particular comprise much of the Twins offense, and even the solid performances from Michael Cuddyer (2-4, HR, +.153 WPA) and Danny Valencia (1-3, BB, +.219 WPA) couldn’t provide enough offense to top the Yankees. The Twins lefties missed chances in both the 7th and 8th to tie or take the lead. Both innings saw two runners on and two outs, but neither Jim Thome nor Denard Span could reach against the Yankees bullpen.
Outside of Crain, the bullpen was solid. Brian Fuentes, Jose Mijares, and Jon Rauch combined for three scoreless- and baserunner-free innings. Fuentes pitched 1.2 innings and may be unavailable for tomorrow’s game. None of the other pitchers threw more than an inning and should be ready for action tomorrow.
There has been a negative reaction regarding Ron Gardenhire’s decision to bunt with Orlando Hudson up and a runner on in the first inning. Indeed, the successful bunt resulted in -.018 WPA for the Twins and Sabathia managed to retire Joe Mauer and Delmon Young to end the inning without allowing a run. But Gardenhire would have to call for this move over 50 times for it to cost him a full win (admittedly, this is not outside the realm of possibility). Personally, I would’ve preferred the aggressive play in allowing Hudson to swing away, but we also can’t ignore the possibilities of results such as a bunt single or a reach on error. The bunt probably isn’t a good play there, but it hardly cost the Twins the game and it is a defensible call in a low run environment.
Finally, we close with…
THE CRAIG SAGER SUIT WATCH
This series has been blessed with one Craig Sager as the sideline reporter. Sager’s suits are legendary, as a simple Google Image Search will reveal.
Today, Sager went with the puce suit. In case you don’t know what Puce is (I didn’t either), it’s this:
Craig Sager does. My pick of Periwinkle was slightly off tonight. My guess for game 2 is Vertical Stripes.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.