Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire must have slept through Game 4 of the 2001
World Series, in which a gassed closer was left in just a tad too long on a cold night at
How else to explain Gardenhire's leaving Joe Nathan in for a third inning to pitch the 12th
in Game 2 of the American League Division Series?
With Gardenhire playing the role of former D'backs skipper Bob Brenly and
Nathan doing his best Byung-Hyun Kim impersonation, the Twins allowed the Yankees
to rally for what may have been a season-saving 7-6 victory Wednesday.
With one out, Miguel Cairo and Derek Jeter walked, setting the stage for Alex
Rodriguez to get his biggest hit as a Yankee -- a ground-rule double that
sailed past the outstretched arms of Shannon Stewart in left-center field. That
tied the game 6-6, setting up an intentional walk to Gary Sheffield to load the
bases and a game-winning sac fly by Hideki Matsui.
"We overextended [Nathan]; I'm sure we did," Gardenhire said. "Nathan's still
throwing the ball 95, 96 mph. That's not bad. You're just facing some very
Gardenhire said he didn't like his other options. He could have gone with
lefty J.C. Romero, who had a 6.92 ERA in September, or rookie right-hander Jesse
Crain, who has all of 27 major league innings of experience. But the walks to
Cairo and Jeter showed Nathan was out of gas as he reached the 50-pitch
plateau for the first time all season.
Granted, his choices were not appealing as A-Rod strode to the plate. But the
Twins skipper should have taken his chances with a fresh arm out of the
From the Bench
The biggest concern the Yankees have with Game 3 starter Kevin Brown isn't
his left hand, which he broke in a fit of rage down the stretch in September.
It's his balky back. Brown revealed Wednesday that back pain has impaired his
his velocity and control in recent starts, and he may have to undergo surgery in
Kenny Lofton has yet to make an appearance in this series, and he can't be
too happy about it. Joe Torre has opted to go with switch-hitting Ruben Sierra
instead of the left-handed Lofton, even in Game 2 with the right-handed Radke
pitching. "I told him, hopefully it's going to be a long postseason and just be
ready to play." ... After failing to deliver any timely hits in Game 1, the
Yankees brought out a ghost of clutchness past -- Paul O'Neill -- to throw out the
first pitch for Game 2. ... Not content to stop there, New York also brought in
the Irish Tenor to make his 2004 postseason debut during the seventh-inning
Folks, what we have here is a Mike Scott redux. If you recall, Scott was so
dominant in winning his first two starts of the 1986 National League
Championship Series with the Astros that the Mets were terrified of having to
face him in a Game 7. Scott didn't throw a pitch in Game 6, a 16-inning classic
won by the Mets to close out the series, but his presence provided
unbelievable tension nonetheless.
That's what Friday's Game 3 will feel like. If the Yankees lose, the Twins will send Santana to the mound with a chance to end New York's season either in Game 4 on short rest or Game 5 on full rest. If the Yankees win Game 3, Santana probably goes on short rest to keep the Twins alive, and if he
does, the Yankees will get another shot at Radke in Game 5.