Yanks don't mess with starting nine

Yanks don't mess with starting nine

MINNEAPOLIS -- Preparing for what they hoped would be a clinching Game 3 of the American League Division Series, the Yankees on Sunday reflected on just how they have managed to enjoy such success. But a quick glance at their lineup was all they needed to reveal the answer.

Derek Jeter was leading off and playing shortstop, as he has done all year. Batting second and playing left field was Johnny Damon, the Yankees' typical No. 2 hitter and left fielder. Then there was Mark Teixeira at first base, Alex Rodriguez at third base, Hideki Matsui at designated hitter and Jorge Posada at catcher.

The bottom three -- and perhaps the best bottom three in baseball -- was Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera. It was the Yankees' most commonly used lineup of the regular season, the same one they used in Game 1, and the generator behind so much of their success.

"Last year, we dealt with so many injuries in our lineup, whether it was Posada, Matsui -- it was hard to have consistency," manager Joe Girardi said. "Melky struggled. We were a little more left-handed dominant. It's nice to just be able to put the lineup up and let the guys go play."

Division Series
Gm. 1NYY 7, MIN 2WrapVideo
Gm. 2NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)WrapVideo
Gm. 3NYY 4, MIN 1WrapVideo

Taking the mound was perhaps the most consistent of the bunch, left-hander Andy Pettitte. Falling just shy of his fifth straight season of more than 200 innings, Pettitte still managed to win at least 14 games for the 12th time in his career.

He, too, was a reason why the Yankees shook off the cold of downtown Minneapolis and entered the Metrodome with a chance to close out their best-of-five series against the Twins. Given that the Angels finished off their own ALDS victory over the Red Sox earlier Sunday, the Yankees entered their game with an eye on finalizing the AL Championship Series schedule, which will start Friday.

"You like to keep the momentum," Girardi said. "You would like to keep that emotion on your side, and that can change in one game, that's for sure. A lot of people always talk about the third game being the most important in this series."

If the Yankees needed any more motivation to close out their series in Game 3, a lengthy storm is due to drop one to three inches of snow on Minneapolis beginning late Sunday night. A Game 3 victory would allow the team's charter plane to jet out of town ahead of the weather.

"For us, obviously, you want to try to close it out as soon as you can," Girardi said. "And the way you do that is you play very good baseball, because we know the Twins. They are very tough."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.