The only thing different about this one was that the Twins didn’t take an early lead. In their previous five postseason meetings the Twins scored early only to lose the game. The Yankees jumped out in this one and never looked back. The built up a 5-0 lead by the fourth, which was more then enough to secure the series victory. It was the Yankees’ ninth straight postseason win against the Twins.
In his first playoff start Phil Hughes starred. He had pitched 12 postseason innings previously, but all in relief. In 2007 he came on in relief of Roger Clemens, who left the game with an injury in the third inning. Hughes pitched 3.2 scoreless innings, striking out four and holding down the Indians while the Yankees took the lead. Last season he pitched in all three rounds, but ended up allowing six runs in 6.1 innings. Last night he’d eclipse his 2009 postseason innings total.
Hughes faced 25 batters through seven innings, using 99 pitches to dispatch 21 Twins. Only five opponents reached base on him, four on singles and one via a walk. The first one who reached, Denard Span in the fourth, was immediately erased on a double play. That came off the bat of Orlando Hudson, and was the biggest out of the game, -9 percent WPA. After that the Yankees broke open the game, and Hughes never again pitched with a WE of under 90 percent.
The only remotely interesting situation after the fifth came in the top of the eighth. Kerry Wood, working for the third time in the series, started by allowing a double to Danny Valencia. Two batters later Span moved him to third with a single, and then Hudson singled him home. But with five more runs to make up and just five outs with which to score them, that barely put a dent in the WE. It got as low as 93.3 percent when Wood walked Joe Mauer, but was quickly back up over 99 percent when Boone Logan and David Robertson induced fly outs to end the inning.
Only one play in this game produced a WPA of over 10 percent. That was Marcus Thames‘s home run to right-center in the fifth inning. That gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Thames hit 12 home runs in the regular season, none of them to the opposite field. In fact, only three of them were even to left-center (though our splits classify one as center field).
With the win the Yankees are the first team in the League Championship Series. They’ll wait until Friday, when they’ll travel to either St. Petersburg or Arlington for the start of a best-of-seven series.