The Yankees-Twins ALDS in 2004 should not get lost in the shuffle.
Often lost in the shuffle of the wildness that surrounds it, the 2004 American League Division Series between the Yankees and Twins deserves its own remembrance.
After all, back then, Minnesota vs. New York wasn’t quite the David vs. Goliath battle it is today in the postseason. There was very little history between the two teams — the Twins had advanced further in 2002, falling to the Angels in the ALCS, and the Yanks had won a hard-fought first-round battle the year prior.
In ’04, the Twins remained a formidable matchup for anyone, as Johan Santana loomed in Games 1 and 5. Predictably, he started this particular series at Yankee Stadium against Mike Mussina, who was unable to match zeroes with him. New York fell on their own turf 2-0, and looked to be in a bad place.
The Yankees took a 5-3 lead into the eighth inning of Game 2, though, when all hell broke loose for Mariano Rivera, and a Corey Koskie ground-rule double tied things up.
Rivera whiffed Jason Kubel and retired Cristian Guzman to end the inning and keep the game tied, and this game swiftly morphed into a marathon.
With two outs and none on in the top of the 12th, Tanyon Sturtze let Torii Hunter take him deep, and we all went back to square one. Moments away from going down 2-0 and heading on the road (RIP), Miguel Cairo and Derek Jeter worked one-out walks against Joe Nathan, bringing A-Rod up, who delivered a thwap into the gap.
His ground-rule smack tied the game, and gave Hideki Matsui the chance to walk things off with a sac fly of his own. All even.
Hey, here’s a sentence that sounds impossible, but is true: Kevin Brown won the pivotal Game 3 of the ALDS in Minnesota. I know, I’ve removed him from the narrative, too. The Yankees took it 8-4 (and led 8-1 into the ninth) thanks to Brown’s six innings of one-run ball.
It all ended in Game 4, which the Yankees trailed 5-1 into the eighth inning, when Ruben Sierra put his personal stamp on the postseason, ejecting a hanging breaker over the baggie in right.
The game went to extras, giving us another chance to remind you that A-Rod…dominated this series. He silenced any doubters immediately, slashing .421/.476/.737 in his first postseason series in Pinstripes, setting up a reckoning…we assumed. He singlehandedly sent the Yankees past the Twins in the 11th inning of this game.
This series had it all — bouncing doubles, bullpen implosions, well-timed steals of third, and Corey Koskie. It even set A-Rod up to be a Bronx Bombers hero, and took every ounce of gumption for a 101-win team to eke out a series victory over an inferior bunch, with Johan looming back in the Bronx for a deciding Game 5.
Unfortunately, for the victorious Yankees, the ALCS was canceled in 2004. A shame, truly, for this strong team.
Alas, it never happened.