It is often said that baseball is a game of failure, but that is a half-truth at most. Sure, even the best batters make outs most of the time. But conversely, even mediocre pitchers retire most batters they face, and good teams win more games than they lose. So, when one team–the Minnesota Twins–can’t beat another–the New York Yankees–over a period of years, it isn’t the norm, it is weird. Generally, baseball is a 60-40 game.
You can look up the Twins’ record of futility against the Yankees over the last few years. Before today, they had lost nine in a row, and 12 in a row at Yankee Stadium. For years, their record against the Yankees has been awful.
This year, the Twins have been riding high, leading the American League Central and generally favored to go wire-to-wire to win the division. Their new home, Target Field, has welcomed a top-rank team.
And yet, every Twins fan is painfully aware that the road to the World Series runs through the Bronx. Last year, the Twins won their division in a 163rd game thriller, then went down to the Yankees, three games in a row. That continued a years-long pattern of futility against the Bombers. So when the Twins made their first trip to Yankee Stadium on Friday, all eyes were on them.
They stumbled in the first two games. In both, the Twins starter performed pretty well and kept the team in the game, but the bullpen was weak and batters didn’t come through. The Yankees won both games, giving Twins fans a here-we-go-again sensation. Today, though, the Twins finally caught a break in the form of an eighth-inning grand slam by Jason “the Beast” Kubel. Kubel is off to a slow start this year, but all is forgiven after today’s shot off Mariano Rivera. The Twins won 6-3, but not without some late-inning drama, as Jon Rauch, who has taken over the closer role from Joe Nathan, who is out with Tommy John surgery, let the first two batters on base in the bottom of the ninth. Twins fans everywhere noted that if Alex Rodriguez came to the plate it would be with the bases loaded; Rodriguez already had one slam in the series. But Rauch buckled down and struck out the next three Yankees to end the game. A game of failure? Not today, for the Twins, Kubel or Rauch.
In the photo below, Kubel crosses home plate and is congratulated by catcher Joe Mauer:
Eventually, the Twins will have to do better than one out of three against the Yankees, but for now, we’ll take it.
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