The New York Yankees became Major League Baseball's flagship franchise almost as much for the glamorous image they project as for the 27 titles in their trophy case.
From Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter, Joltin' Joe to A-Rod, the Yankees have almost always been the bluebloods of baseball.
Until this year. The 2010 Yanks are defined by resilience, grit and a never-give-up attitude that belies their $200 million payroll and Broadway billing.
Mark Teixeira hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning and the Yankees rallied to a 6-4 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the AL division series, the Twins' 10th straight postseason loss.
During the regular season, the Yankees overcame deficits of three runs or more to win seven times, according to STATS LLC, and led the majors with 48 come-from-behind victories. Seven of their 11 victories in the postseason last year came after they fell behind, including all three against the Twins.
“Our lineup is so deep, there's never a reason to give up,” Teixeira said. “There's some teams where maybe two or three guys carry the team and if you're in a big hole it's tough to get out of. But with our lineup, we can be down four, five, six runs and still have a chance to score seven or eight. We just haven't given up all year.”
The Twins have seen this show before.
They fell to 2-10 against the Yankees in the ALDS, including 3-1 series losses in 2003 and 2004 and a sweep last year.
“My hat goes off to 'em. That's a great ballclub they've got over there, man,” Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson said. “Those boys never give up. They believe, one through nine. They believe in each other, one through nine, and any given time someone can pop one. And you saw a prime example tonight.”
Game 2 is on Thursday night, with Andy Pettitte starting for New York against Carl Pavano.
In the first outdoor postseason game in Minnesota since 1970, the Twins had brand new Target Field rocking early. Michael Cuddyer hit a two-run homer off CC Sabathia in the second inning and Hudson scored on a passed ball in the third for a 3-0 lead.
Francisco Liriano was cruising, allowing just four hits and retiring 10 in a row before running into trouble in the sixth inning.
Teixeira doubled, Alex Rodriguez walked and Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano followed with RBI-singles to cut the deficit to 3-2. Then Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple to give New York its first lead and suck the life out of more than 42,000 fans.
“It doesn't matter what the score is after 3, 4, 5, there's still a lot of game left,” Jeter said. “You've got to play nine innings.”
Sabathia walked rookie Danny Valencia with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 4, but rebounded to strike out J.J. Hardy.
Teixeira came through with the big shot in the seventh, sending a hanging slider from Jesse Crain into the seats in right field, and Mariano Rivera got four outs for his 40th postseason save.
“When you come over here and you're part of the Yankee organization, winning is an attitude,” right fielder Nick Swisher said. “To come over here and be a part of it and get to learn from all these guys that played before us, we have that never-die attitude and it definitely showed tonight.”
Once again, the Twins couldn't find a way to come up with a big hit when they needed it most. They went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and had their big bopper — DH Jim Thome — up twice in the final three innings with a chance to put the Twins back in it.
But David Robertson struck out Thome with two on and two out in the seventh and Rivera got the 40-year-old slugger to pop out to Rodriguez with one man on in the ninth to end the game.
“Obviously you know they've got the potential to score, but you don't have that 'Oh, gosh, here-we-go-again feeling,” said Cuddyer, who also had a double.