Andy Pettitte pitched 6-1/3 brilliant innings, Alex Rodriguez hit a tying homer and Derek Jeter added to his postseason legend with another brilliant play as the Yankees defeated the Twins 4-1 Sunday at the Metrodome to sweep their best-of-five AL Division Series, 3-0.
The Yankees now have four days to rest before beginning the ALCS at Yankee Stadium against the ... Angels?
Um, Dave, um, what happened? Wasn't the ALCS supposed to Sox Vs. Stripes? Maybe next year.
But this year, it's the Yankees who have taken then next step on their quest for their 27th World Series championship.
Game 3 provided a second consecutive pitchers' duel and a fitting final game for the Metrodome. The Twins will move into their new outdoor stadium, Target Field, next season.
Andy Pettitte and Carl "American Idle" Pavano locked horns, matching each other pitch for pitch into the sixth inning. I hate to say, "I told you so," but ... Oh, who the heck are we kidding? I wrote Pavano was going to pitch well, and sure enough, he did.
Pavano took the loss, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out nine -- a Twins playoff record -- and threw 64 of 95 pitches for strikes. He pitched well enough to get the win, had he received any offensive support.
Pettitte was a big reason for that lack of support, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth and allowing just one run on three hits and one walk before departing with one out in the seventh. He struck out seven, threw 58 of 81 pitches for strikes, earned his 15th career playoff victory and was pulled from the game way too early.
Joe Girardi did a tremendous job managing the bullpen in the regular season, but in the last two playoff games he's had way too quick a hook and is overmanaging a bit, though it hasn't come back to bite him. There was no reason to pull a veteran such as Pettitte in the seventh at just 81 pitches.
Both offenses struggled to get anything going until the Twins broke through in the sixth. Denard Span singled with two outs and stole second before Orlando Cabrera walked. MVP candidate Joe Mauer then grounded the first pitch from Pettitte into left field to give the Twins the 1-0 lead and breath some energy into the Metrodome crowd.
The crowd, though, would be silenced quickly.
With one out A-Rod launched a full-count, 92 mph fastball from Pavano and deposited into the retractable football seats in right to tie it at 1.
For the series, A-Rod went 5-for-11 (.455) with two game-tying homers and six RBI, three of which came with two outs and three that tied the score.
A-Rod looks relaxed and focused. He's locked in. Don't expect him to suddenly stop producing in the next round. This is going to be a big October for him. This was just the start.
One out later, Jorge Posada crushed a hanging 0-and-1 sinker and put it into the stands into left to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead that the Twins just couldn't overcome.
Joba Chamberlain got the final two outs of the seventh before Jeter worked a little of his postseason magic to bail out Phil Hughes in the eighth.
Nick Punto greeted Hughes with a double and the Yankees' lead was in jeopardy. Span then bounced a ball back up the middle that Jeter ranged wide to his left, fielded in the outfield on the second base side, whirled and threw home, surprising Punto, who had made the turn around third and was trying to score. Punto stopped and tried to scramble back to third, but was too late. Posada's throw to A-Rod was in plenty of time and Rodriguez applied the tag.
In Jeter's career, among the many things he will be remember for will be three defensive plays: the flip play in the 2001 ALDS at Oakland, the dive into the stands against the Red Sox in 2004 and now this heads-up play.
Really, all you can say is, "Typical Jeter." He always seems to come up with the big play or get the big hit when the Yankees need it the most.
Hughes then got Cabrera to fly out for the second out before Girardi went to Mariano Rivera, who got the ever-dangerous Mauer to ground out to first.
With Rivera on, the game certainly was all but over, but the Yankees made sure to get him some breathing room in the ninth as Posada and Robinson Cano singled in big insurance runs to make it 4-1.
Rivera then pitched around a leadoff single to close it out, lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.74 and recording his 35th career postseason save.
The Yankees did everything right this series.
They got great pitching with their starters going 2-0, allowing four runs, three earned, in 19 innings (1.42 ERA) with 21 strikeouts.
They got great defense, with right fielder Nick Swisher also throwing out a runner a second base in this game.
And they outhomered the Twins 6-0 and got timely hitting from big hitters such as A-Rod, Posada, Jeter and Mark Teixiera.
Those are the reasons the Yankees are advancing to the ALCS for the first time in five years.
And those are the reasons this team will capture World Series title No. 27.
Runners In Scoring Position
Game 1, Friday vs. Angels, Time TBA, Fox
Expected Starters: John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia