"I think, in the playoffs, bullpens are always important," said Twins reliever Jesse Crain, who was the losing pitcher on Wednesday. "Each team that plays has a good lineup, especially [the Yankees] -- they take pitches and make the pitchers battle, so the 'pen is definitely going to be coming into the games early."
The game was tied at 4 by the time Sabathia and Liriano were done. Then in the seventh, Crain left a slider up to Mark Teixeira that resulted in a two-run homer.
Because Yankees relievers Boone Logan (two-thirds of an inning), Dave Robertson (one-third), Kerry Wood (two-thirds) and Mariano Rivera (1 1/3) countered with shutout ball the rest of the way, that proved to be the difference.
"They've been great," Sabathia said of his relief corps. "All you have to do is get the ball to Mo, and those three guys have been great. Robbie's been good all year, Boone's been great and the addition of Woody has just made our bullpen that much better."
Just .02 in bullpen ERA separated these two clubs this season. The Yankees were third in the AL at 3.47, and the Twins were just a smidge below at 3.49. But that didn't tell the whole story, because Minnesota acquired two big pieces in Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes before and after the Trade Deadline, respectively.
Heading in, many gave the Twins the edge in the bullpen department. But in head-to-head matchups, the Yankees' 5.51 ERA was still better than the Twins' 6.43 ERA.
And in Game 1, New York rode a bullpen advantage to victory.
"That's all I heard, that their bullpen is supposedly better than ours on paper, but I don't think so," Logan said. "I think our bullpen, with what we've done and the amount of innings we had to pick up, we've done a tremendous job this year."
The end of the season featured a starting-pitching mess for the Yankees and a busy time for their relievers. From the start of September until the end of the regular season, the Yankees' bullpen pitched 104 1/3 innings -- easily more than any other month in 2010. Second most? August, 89 innings.
That experience could be vital for the relievers now.
"It seems like our late-inning guys start from the sixth inning a lot of times," Logan said.
"You get used to coming in earlier than you want, and we have the guys who can eat up the last three, four innings and get the job done, shut it down."