Precedent exists for Twins comeback
Starting pitching likely key to rebounding from Game 1 loss
NEW YORK -- The opening to the 2006 American League Division Series between the Tigers and Yankees looked somewhat similar to Wednesday night's first game in the 2009 ALDS for the Twins at Yankee Stadium.
Detroit came into the competition as the decided underdog, much like Minnesota this year. Those Tigers were a 95-win team that just happened to lose their final five games of the regular season and slip from AL Central champs to the Wild Card, instead of a solid 87-win squad, such as the Twins, who survived a battle within a mediocre division.
Nonetheless, the 2006 Yankees struck for five runs in the third inning of Game 1 and cruised to an 8-4 victory over the Tigers. A series sweep, or a series victory at the very least, no longer was being predicted for New York. It was simply assumed.
And how did that particular series turn out? Following a weather-related postponement of Game 2, the Tigers ripped off three straight wins to send the Yankees home, despite their 97 regular-season victories. Detroit reached the World Series, before losing to St. Louis.
There's certainly hope for Ron Gardenhire's crew as it prepares for Game 2 on Friday night, following Wednesday's 7-2 setback. Remember, the Tigers had a 1-5 record against the Yankees prior to the playoffs in 2006, so the Twins' present 0-8 head-to-head record this year doesn't seem quite so foreboding.
"Every team has a team that they maybe don't have good luck at certain places against," said Minnesota center fielder Denard Span of the Yankees' dominance over the Twins, especially in the Bronx, where Gardenhire has a 5-26 mark during his managerial tenure.
"Unfortunately, we just haven't had good luck here," Span said. "But I don't think anybody in the clubhouse believes that there's a hex or anything going on. We still believe we can win, beat the Yankees."
Minnesota's momentum might be as good as Nick Blackburn pitches in Game 2. When the Tigers rallied in 2006, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman combined to allow five runs in 21 1/3 innings over their three starts.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
Here's one more piece of encouraging news for the Twins. In 2003 and '04, Minnesota won the first game of its respective playoff series with New York and lost the series. So, initial success between these two doesn't always lead to the ultimate prize.
"We're just trying to move forward and just keep playing the same baseball we've been playing the last couple of weeks," said Twins right fielder Jason Kubel, whose team finished the regular season on a 17-4 run.
"What happened in the regular season doesn't matter anymore," Span said. "Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. We just feel like if we can win Game 2, that would be real big getting out of here."
"It's only one game," said Minnesota shortstop Orlando Cabrera of Wednesday's loss. "We'll see what happens Friday."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.