Despite our strong Michigan sports allegiances, we dealt relatively well with the Tigers’ loss to the Twins in the ALDS play-in game last night, mainly because we were at a fancypants dinner with our girlfriend and her sister when alerted by mobile-phone update that the Twins had won; any excessively emotional reaction at that point would have been playing too much into the beer-commercial cliché that the situation had already become. We did express sardonic surprise tonight — to ourselves, at home, alone, like a weirdo — that Jim Leyland had not shown up in the Bronx to try to insert Fernando Rodney, the closer beaten for the winning hit last night after he’d already thrown three full innings, into this game too. Even the end of the season can’t make Jim Leyland give up on Fernando Rodney! But it was otherwise with minimal bitterness that we tuned in to the game, figuring that even if the Tigers had moved on, the Yankees would have battered them anyway.
The game confirmed that loss-rationalizing line of thinking. The Yanks pwned all over the Twins’ mediocre pitchers, with Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui both cracking two-run homers. Meanwhile, the Minnesotans’ fundamentally sound scrappery was nowhere to be seen: On the Nick Swisher double that put the Yanks ahead for good, it was an errant relay by Orlando Cabrera that pulled Joe Mauer off home plate and allowed Robinson Cano, who looked to be toast otherwise, to score. O-Cab is kind of the poor man’s Jeter as far as inspiring announcer-and-pundit baloney about headiness and leadership and other ineffable qualities of true champions; his bad throw didn’t stop the usually levelheaded Ron Darling from claiming the next inning that Cabrera — who’s won one World Series in thirteen seasons, spent the first eight years of his career playing for Montreal Expos teams that finished a cumulative 139 games under .500 in the years he was there, and was traded to the Twins this year because the Athletics squad he signed with was so awful they decided to move veterans for spare parts — was “just a winner, anyplace he’s gone.” (Darling also overindulged play-by-play man Chip Carey’s constant references to the “lightness” and good spirits of both teams; like, that’s probably true, but it’s not like this is unusual for teams that have just made the playoffs, except for the Colorado Rockies, who have long been noted for the brutal, William Burroughs–like atomosphere of crippling drug addiction and psychosexual torment that pervades their despair swamp of a locker room.)
The story of the first game was that the story is almost entirely what might have been expected, given track records: The Yankees slugged with authority; CC Sabathia turned in a very solid but not-quite-as-dominant-as-he-was-last-year start; the bullpen, anchored by Phil Hughes and Mariano, competently snuffed the Twins out in the late innings; your correspondent, despite thoughts of putting the DVR on pause to go jogging around the third inning, ended up drinking whiskey and eating Doritos on the couch for the duration. If there’s to be any small-sample freakiness, big-spotlight choking, or increased commitment to physical fitness, it will have to wait, for now.