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Thursday, October 7, 2010
Texas Toast: Pettitte & Berkman burn Twins

By Andrew Marchand

Lance Berkman is a good 'ol Texas boy. He was born there, grew up there, went to college there and played professionally there. He really never wanted to leave there.

But there was a little bit of Texas in the Bronx. His good buddy, fellow Texan and his former Astros teammate Andy Pettitte, was a Yankee. Pettitte told Berkman what it was like to be a Yankee, and how much he would love it.

So Berkman, who had the right to veto a trade, agreed to come to the Yankees before this year's trade deadline. He even has lived at Pettitte's house.

On Thursday night, it was the Texas connection that appears to have put the Yankees on a collision course with Texas. While neither ALDS is over yet, the Yankees and Rangers both have 2-0 leads as they return home.

Right now, the Twins and Rays look like, well, Texas toast.

Minnesota got that way because Pettitte did it once again for the Yankees. He fired seven innings of two-run ball in the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Twins. Meanwhile, Berkman nailed a go-ahead solo shot in the fifth and, after the Twins tied it back up, he put the Yankees up for good with a go-ahead double.

Pettitte enticed Berkman to leave the south and be a Yankee. On Thursday night, they combined forces and it looks as if they could very well be headed back to Texas in a week.

UMPIRES WILL BE JUDGED: If you don't like hearing about umpires and instant replay, you may want to avoid sports media the next 24 hours or so. Carl Pavano's 1-2 sinker to Berkman that home plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt called a ball may have been a strike. It was called a ball, and then Berkman nailed his go-ahead RBI double.

GRAND RECOVERY: Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long is creating quite a reputation for himself. Besides being a guy who can coach a diva like A-Rod -- even gaining an endorsement from the $300 million man -- he can also mold an easy student like Curtis Granderson.

In early August, Granderson was so lost that it virtually seemed guaranteed that Granderson would sit against lefties in the playoffs.

Instead, a couple of tutoring sessions produced a made-over swing, and Granderson is now a vital Yankee and a fixture in the two-hole versus righties. On Thursday, he started the Yankees' comeback with a fourth-inning leadoff double and came around to score. In the sixth, he added a leadoff single, but was eventually left stranded.

Still, those two days off in August are a credit to Long, who can work with the A-Rods and the Grandersons of the Yankees' world.

"He knows how to teach in a lot of different ways," Joe Girardi said of Long. "Sometimes I found and when you are trying to teach players, that your verbiage that you use with one player may not work with another. You might have to try something totally different. Or you might have to try something three or four times for him to understand what you're talking about."

MR. MET: Orlando Hudson has been one of the guys that the Mets are perpetually trying to acquire, but never do. The latest reason has been Luis Castillo's supersized contract. Hudson finally made Mets fans happy, though, when he went deep in the sixth off Pettitte to tie the game. That tie didn't last long, but Mets fans -- some of whom might enjoying seeing the Yankees lose more than they enjoy seeing the Mets win -- were momentarily feeling good.

RAUCH STAR: The Twins were just trying to hang on in the seventh when they brought in Jon Rauch with the bases loaded, one out and Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano due up in the seventh. Rauch struck out A-Rod and forced Cano to pop out. That ended the seventh. The Yankees were still up 4-2, but the Twins had a chance.