Rodriguez delivered the playoff performance his talent demanded.
Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hit seventh-inning home runs to spoil Carl Pavano’s opportunity to frustrate New Yorkers one more time, and the Yankees advanced to their first AL championship series in five years with a 4-1 victory and sweep of Minnesota on Sunday night.
Mariano Rivera closed out Game 3—the last baseball game at the Metrodome—to preserve Andy Pettitte’s record-tying 15th career postseason win.
Game 1 of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels will be at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. The teams were 5-5 against each this season. The Angels swept Boston earlier in the day with a 7-6 victory.
“It’s exciting,” Rodriguez said. “We were very disappointed last year when we went home, and ownership got us some good players. We came out and played like a team, like a group of brothers.”
This pitching duel between former teammates Pettitte and Pavano ended with another first-round playoff victory in Minnesota for the Yankees, who also eliminated the Twins here in 2003 and 2004.
“I was trying to match zeros with him,” Pettitte said.
For all their success this decade by being so good at the basics, the Twins made glaring gaffes at the worst times—against the team that led the majors with 103 wins, they were doomed.
The Yankees aren’t about to let an opponent get away with overrunning the bases, as Carlos Gomez did in Game 2 to cost the Twins a run. Nick Punto then wasted his leadoff double in the eighth by failing to see that Denard Span’s single didn’t get past shortstop Derek Jeter, and he was thrown out trying to retreat to third base.
Rodriguez went 5-for-11 with two homers and six RBIs in these three games. Posada complained about being benched for Jose Molina with A.J. Burnett on the mound on Friday.
Posada gave Rivera more room with an RBI single in a two-run ninth against the Minnesota bullpen, as the crowd began to file out of the Dome for the final time.
Pettitte retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced and left Joba Chamberlain a 2-1 lead and one out in the seventh.
Rivera, a 10-time All-Star, came in to get Joe Mauer on a bat-shattering groundout to end the eighth after the Twins blew their chance to score against Phil Hughes thanks to Punto’s blunder.
Rivera then closed out the ninth for the save.
n Angels 7, Red Sox 6—Vladimir Guerrero and the Los Angeles Angels shrugged off their postseason failures and swept the host Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs.
Guerrero hit a two-out, two-run single off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning and the Angels rallied to win Game 3, advancing to the AL championship series with their first postseason sweep in franchise history.
The Red Sox intentionally walked Torii Hunter with runners on second and third to bring up Guerrero, a star who had long been waiting for a big October hit. And he came through against Papelbon, who had never before allowed a run in the postseason.
“That’s the biggest hit he’s had,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think the way we did it, in a sweep, in Game 3 with two out in the ninth, gives us momentum.”
The Angels open their first ALCS since 2005 on Friday against the New York Yankees.
Los Angeles trailed 5-1 early, was behind 5-2 after seven innings and still down 6-4 when Papelbon retired the first two batters of the ninth. Erick Aybar singled on a two-strike pitch, Chone Figgins walked and Bobby Abreu singled in one run—the first postseason run Papelbon had allowed in 27 innings.
After Hunter was walked intentionally, Guerrero, who had one RBI in his previous 19 postseason games, singled sharply to center on the first pitch as Figgins and Abreu raced home.
Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth for Los Angeles. Dustin Pedroia popped it up to Aybar for the final out, with the shortstop pumping his right arm even as he tracked the ball with his left.
The AL West champion Angels came streaming out of the dugout. Jered Weaver joined his teammates on-field waving the jersey of Nick Adenhart, who was killed in an April car crash with a man who has been charged with drunken driving.
The crowd that just one inning earlier had been primed for a celebration quietly filed out of Fenway Park for the last time in 2009, having seen the wild-card Red Sox beaten.
The Red Sox had won 12 of 13 postseason games against the Angels heading into the series, including an 11-game winning streak that dated back to Dave Henderson’s homer off Donnie Moore in the 1986 ALCS—Hendu’s shot in Game 5 sent the Red Sox to a win by the same 7-6 score.
Darren Oliver earned the victory after getting one out in relief, and Papelbon took his first career postseason loss. The Red Sox closer had converted seven of his previous eight postseason save opportunities.
But after Billy Wagner put two on with two out in the eighth, the Red Sox were forced to bring Papelbon in with a 5-2 lead. He gave up a two-run single to Juan Rivera that made 5-4 before picking pinch-runner Reggie Willits off first base.
After Mike Lowell’s RBI single made it 6-4 in the eighth, Papelbon got Maicer Izturis on a foul popup and Mike Napoli on a fly ball to center. Abreu lined one off the Green Monster to cut the lead to 6-5, and the Red Sox appeared to have caught a break when Figgins held up at third while the throw from left fielder Jason Bay rolled into the infield.
But after Hunter walked, Guerrero singled up the center for the go-ahead hit.