Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Updated: May 27, 10:12 AM ET
Twin killing masks Yankees' troubles
By Andrew Marchand ESPNNewYork.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Five hours before the final pitch, Derek Jeter strutted through the road dugout as Joe Girardi answered questions from the media. In his best reporter's voice, Jeter belted, "Joe, have you hit the panic button yet?"
Girardi said he had not, even though his team had lost 10 of its last 15 games.
Five hours later, some Core Four magic from Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera masked panicking signs from Rivera, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and the entire Yankees offense.
Add in Nick Swisher's game-winning homer in the second game and the Yankees swept the Twins, leaving the problems as just warning signs for now.
"Right now, a win is a win," Swisher said after his ninth-inning blast gave the Yankees a 3-2 win over the Twins to pair with their victory from earlier Wednesday.
Jeter first eased Girardi's mind by starting the resumption of Tuesday's suspended game in the sixth with a solo home run, then with a classic Jeter hop throw from the hole at short that saved two runs in the Yankees' 1-0 win.
Mariano Rivera has been less than his usual dominating self lately, but he did pick up two saves Wednesday in Minnesota.
"That's why he is one of the best money players in the game," Pettitte said.
Pettitte is an all-time money player, too. On Wednesday night, he spread eight hits, using three double plays over eight innings. The last DP was a Houdini job in the eighth by getting the reigning AL MVP, Joe Mauer, to hit into an inning-ender.
"It's over and over," Rivera said of Pettitte's clutch pitching.
After Swisher went yard, Rivera returned for his second save of the day and he finally looked like the Mo we know.
"I actually thought his stuff was better in the second game than the first," Girardi said.
Rivera agreed. In the first game, Rivera didn't look like Rivera. It may be that he is going through his annual, "Is this it for Mo?" weeks that invite a lot of stories, but eventually lead to the conclusion he's still the all-time best. By the end of the night, it seemed that might be the case again.
Still, when Rivera's greatness does expire, the beginning of the end will look like much of the past week has looked.
Entering Wednesday, Rivera had allowed runs in his past three appearances, tying his longest streak as a reliever.
In the ninth inning of Wednesday's first game, protecting a one-run lead, it looked as if he would break that record. J.J. Hardy mashed a long fly ball that at first appeared to be a game-tying shot. Rivera's reaction seemed to indicate that. However, Target Field plays very big.
"I thought J.J. Hardy's ball had a chance," Girardi said.
Rivera added, "He hit it good. It is great to pitch in a field like that."
So instead of a blown the save, Kevin Russo made the play against the left-field wall. After a four-pitch walk, Rivera escaped.
As for Teixeira, last year's championship masked his poor hitting in October, but this year, April and May have slumped together into his latest 5-for-37. He is at .210 and Memorial Day is only a few days away.
Teixeira did have two hits in the second game. One was a meaningless blooper and the other he ended up getting nabbed at second trying to stretch it into a double after Swisher's homer. Like Rivera, Teixeira looked a little better by the end of the night, for what that's worth.
Meanwhile, A-Rod is looking way up at the big boys on the home run list with half as many as the leaders. The Yankees say they are unconcerned, but when you add up all the variables (age, bad hip, post-PED admission) it makes you wonder if Rodriguez may no longer be the 40-plus home run masher worthy of a nearly $300 million contract.
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As a whole, the Yankees still aren't hitting much in the clutch. They were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position in the two games.
But there was Jeter in the first game to make everything right. The sixth inning could go directly into his video scrapbook.
He doesn't hit that many home runs -- heck, he hadn't hit one since April 30 -- but when he does they usually mean something. With the fans still searching for their seats, Jeter nailed Brian Duensing's 85 mph changeup over the left-field wall.
In the bottom half of the sixth, with two men on and two out, Delmon Young hit a hard grounder in the hole. Jeter ranged to his right, backhanded the ball and, in that classic silhouette, jumped up to make the throw across the diamond to nail Young.
And there was Pettitte against Mauer, getting him to bounce one hard to Jeter to start a double play to end the eighth.
"How impressive was that?" Swisher said.
After Swisher impressed and Rivera finished, no one was pressing the panic button. At least not today.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.More from ESPNNewYork.com »