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Game 2 bigger for Twins than Yanks

Game 2 bigger for Twins than Yanks

NEW YORK -- The Yankees showed on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium what made them the most dominant team in Major League Baseball this season.

The Bombers defeated the Twins, 7-2, with great pitching, aggressive baserunning and two-run homers from Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui to take a 1-0 lead in their American League Division Series that continues with Game 2 on TBS at 6:07 ET on Friday evening.

There's no doubt that if the Yankees keep clicking like this on all cylinders, they will make short work of the Twins in this best-of-five series. A.J. Burnett is slated to start for New York against Minnesota's Nick Blackburn in a matchup of right-handers.

"The thing that the Yankees do is put continuous pressure on you, offensively," said Twins manager Rod Gardenhire, during a Thursday morning news conference. "As you go along in the games, these guys are really, really professional hitters. You can't make any mistakes. You can't walk people. And it's a constantly they put pressure on you. They put pressure on your pitchers -- on everything, because they have quality at-bats as the game goes along, they get better and better."

Including the playoff loss, the Twins have gone 0-for-8 in games against the Yankees this season, and 0-for-5 at the new Yankee Stadium. Their last win in the Bronx was at the old Cathedral, just across 161st Street, on July 4, 2007. Since that Independence Day, Minnesota has lost nine in a row in this neighborhood where it enjoys a day off on Thursday.

The Twins are also 2-7 in ALDS play against the Yankees, losing to them in 2003 and '04, in four games each. At least in those years, Minnesota won the first game of each series in the old stadium before losing the next three games. The Twins don't even have that advantage this time.

Tale of the Tape
Game 2 starters
Twins' Nick Blackburn Yankees' A.J. Burnett
2009 REGULAR SEASON
Overall 33 GS, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 98 K, 41 BB 33 GS, 13-9, 4.04 ERA, 195 K, 97 BB
Key stat 5 ER allowed in his past 27 1/3 innings 28 K in past 24 innings
POSTSEASON
Career First career playoff start First career playoff start
AT YANKEE STADIUM
2009 1 GS, 0-0, 4.70 ERA 16 GS, 5-3, 3.51 ERA
Career 1 GS, 0-0, 4.70 ERA 16 GS, 5-3, 3.51 ERA
AGAINST THIS OPPONENT
2009 regular season 1 GS, 0-0, 4.70 ERA 2 GS, 1-0, 2.77 ERA
Career 4 GS, 0-1, 5.89 ERA 6 GS, 2-1, 3.72 ERA
Loves to face Robinson Cano, 0-for-8 Michael Cuddyer, 2-for-13, 6 K, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Hates to face Mark Teixeira, 6-for-6, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs Joe Mauer, .385, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Why he'll win Twins' big-game pitcher Shut down Twins in 2009
Pitcher beware .290 overall average against is red flag against potent Yankees' attack Patient Twins could force wild streak
Bottom line Must mix in offspeed pitches with sinker Throw strikes

Minnesota must steal a game here Friday before returning to the Metrodome for Game 3 on Sunday if it has any chance of winning the series. Of course, the club was three games behind the Tigers in the AL Central with four to play before tying Detroit. The Twins defeated the Tigers, 6-5, in a 12-inning tiebreaker thriller at home on Tuesday night and then hopped a flight to New York.

"Well, I can only put them out on the field and let them play," Gardenhire said. "The manager's job is to put them out there, let them play the game, hopefully get a few hits, score a few runs early and go from there. You don't try to change the way you attack things -- we have been attacking for a month as hard as we can."

The Yankees, though, are healthy and well-rested. They clinched a playoff spot 16 days ago and used the time to set up their postseason rotation and roster. Finishing the season with a Major League-best 103 wins gave them the right to choose the eight-day opening-round series with three games in the first five days. It also allowed New York to go with three starters and move Joba Chamberlain, who came on to face one batter to end the eighth inning on Wednesday night, back to the bullpen.

"We like our bullpen a lot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Thursday after his club worked out. "We've liked it a lot since we've made the changes we made. I think it started in late April and it continued on through May a little bit. We think we have a deep bullpen, and Joba just adds to that. You're moving a guy that has had a lot of success in the bullpen."

The go-ahead run Wednesday night scored in the fourth inning, when third-base coach Rob Thomson wasn't afraid to wave Robinson Cano home with two outs on Nick Swisher's double into the left-field corner. Cano, who was on first base, broke into a sprint on the play, and Orlando Cabrera's relay throw to the plate was off the mark and up the first-base line.

Under Girardi's tutelage, the Yankees are obviously more aggressive than they were in the waning seasons under Joe Torre, who won four World Series during his 12-year stewardship, the last against the Mets in 2000. Girardi, who managed his first playoff game to a victory on Wednesday night, said the key to the club's success is not deviating from what works.

"What you did in the regular season, the preparation, the way you went about your business is what got you here," he said. "Don't try to reinvent the wheel when you get to the playoffs. It's important that you just do what you've done all year long. You still have the same players. You still have the same starting rotation, the same bullpen that we had three days ago."

No doubt if the Yankees continue to play the same, they will be awfully tough to beat.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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