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Effectively spotting his changeup and sinker, Pavano completed seven innings with a season-high nine strikeouts and no walks. That was more than half of his total with the Yankees all of last year, the last of his injury-filled seasons with them.
The last professional baseball game under this billowing roof was supposed to be a week ago. After beating Detroit in an AL Central tiebreaker on Tuesday night, here the Twins were, playing in front of another packed stadium.
They made every game down the stretch count for more than just a last-chance-to-see-the-Metrodome memory, catching Detroit with 17 wins in their last 21 games including that epic tiebreaker game for the division title on Tuesday.
Ah, but these Yankees aren't the same as the Tigers or the White Sox or the Royals, as the Twins were painfully reminded during the first two games in New York -- and again on Sunday.
Mauer's two-out single justified the "MVP!" chants, gave the Twins their first lead at home over the Yankees in four games this year, and made it three straight runners on against Pettitte in the bottom of the sixth.
The 37-year-old left-hander, who became the all-time major league leader in postseason innings pitched, snapped back to strike out Michael Cuddyer on a high fastball. Pettitte pumped his fist as he headed to the dugout.
Then Pavano's performance was quickly blemished by the big opposite field homers by Rodriguez and Posada. Rodriguez had fallen behind 0-and-2 before working the count full. Just like that, the Yankees were back in front.
NOTES: Pavano's nine strikeouts marked a Twins record for a postseason game. Not even Jack Morris had that many in those 10 shutout innings of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Morris struck out eight. ... After his rare unassisted double play in field, Cuddyer was thrown out on an even rarer 9-6 fielder's choice. The low liner skipped past Cano at second base so fast Nick Swisher was able to field it in right and throw for the force out. ... Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who has been on the staff since 1981, threw out the honorary first pitch. ... The Yankees are 51-1 this season when limiting their opponent to two runs or less.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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