By Lenn Robbins
The Yankees are an acquired taste – kind of like rooting for the lions in ancient Rome, or the bulls in Pamplona or the top one-percent to make more money.
They do not throttle the opponent with dominating pitching. They don’t play small ball (although they did pull off a double steal Friday night).
The Yankees feel you out for a few rounds, uh innings, and just when the legs get a little wobbly, they unleash a barrage of fury that turns the Stadium into the only insane asylum one needs a ticket to enter.
Such was the case in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Yankees, who hit 306 home runs this season, faced the Twins, who hit 307 homers. Two plodding heavyweights trying to set up the big inning.
The Yankees did it twice, putting up a three spot in the third and another in the seventh as they all but KO’d the Twins in a 10-4 win that went the distant, distance, four hours and 15 minutes.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score with a lot of guys on base,” D.J. LeMahieu told reporters. “We did a really good job against their pitchers. I feel like every one of their pitchers that came in pretty much had tough innings against us, hard-fought innings.”
In other words, the Yankees pummeled the Twins physically, and more important, emotionally. The Twins entered this series under pinstripe spell.
The Yankees have ended the Twins’ World Series dreams in 2003, 04, 09, ’10 and ’17. If ever Minnesota needed a win in the opening game of a series, it was Friday night against the Yankees.
“The first one is always the biggest game,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge told reporters.
Perhaps. The Yankees have a way of making every game big, bad and bruising. Friday night’s affair lasted a brutal four hours and 15 minutes. Commentator John Smoltz said in the bottom of the 5th that it felt like the 8th or 9th inning.
This is not how baseball has to be played today. The Astros, behind the remarkable Justin Verlander, needed a mere three hours and 25 minutes to snuff the Rays, 6-2.
The Nationals put in less time, beating the playoff-cursed Clayton Kershaw, 4-2, in three hours and 17 minutes. And the Braves barely broke a sweat in being the Cardinals, 3-0, in two hours and 46 minutes.
But this is how the Yankees play. They believe in their bullpen and they force the opponent to believe in theirs. The Yankees and Twins combined to use 11 relievers.
The Twins figure to need a lot of relief in Game 2. Randy Dobnak, 24, the former Uber driver who got married last Saturday, faces Masahiro Tanaka. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tabbed Dobnak because he has a 52.9 percent ground ball rate which would be impressive if he had pitched more than 28.1 innings.
“It’s been the most amazing week of my life for sure,” Dobnak told reporters. “Getting married, now the postseason start. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
We’ll see about that. Dobnak may not be entering the Coliseum chased by bulls but he might feel that way after about four hours and 25 minutes.