“We gave them a pretty good punch there in the first inning and they responded,” Mauer added, in reference to the fact that the Twins actually jumped to a 3-0 lead that didn’t last long. “So this one stings right now. But they all sting.”’
Along with Manager Paul Molitor, it was Mauer who took it upon himself to address his teammates after the game, reminding them of what they had accomplished this season after losing 103 games last year.
“I just told them I don’t want them to allow this to take away from what they did this year,” he said. “These guys showed me a lot of character and resilience all year long, and it was no different tonight.”
But what was also no different was that the Twins lost to the Yankees again and that Mauer endured a personal moment of frustration that he will not quickly forget.
In 2009, in one of those previous playoff matchups against the Yankees, Mauer led off the top of the 11th inning in Game 2 with the score tied, 3-3. He hit an opposite-field drive down the left-field line that landed fair. But umpire Phil Cuzzi, who was not standing far away, somehow ruled it a foul ball, and in those days, the call was not reviewable.
Mauer wound up singling anyway, and the Twins loaded the bases with no outs. Did they score? Of course not. And in the bottom of the inning, Mark Teixeira hit a walk-off home run for the Yankees. The winning pitcher was a young right-hander named David Robertson.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, and the top of the sixth inning, with the Yankees holding a 7-4 lead. There were two outs and the Twins had put two runners on base against Robertson, who, by that point, had been on the mound for more than three innings. So Manager Joe Girardi summoned the right-hander Tommy Kahnle to face Mauer, who was now the tying run at the plate.
Mauer left Kahnle’s first pitch, a 98-miles-per-hour fastball, go by before swinging at the second, which was clocked at 99. And although he was a tick late, he still drove the ball on a long arc to left field, where, for a moment, it appeared it might sail over the head of the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, and perhaps even over the left-field wall to make it a 7-7 game.
“I thought I hit that one pretty good,” Mauer said. “I thought I had a chance to tie the game up. But it just kind of stopped out there.”
Gardner made the catch two steps in front of the wall. “I was pretty confident I was going to catch it,” Gardner said. “I was just hoping I wasn’t going to run out of room.”
Just as in 2009, Robertson ended up with the victory. Just as in 2009, and all those other years where they have faced the Yankees in the postseason, the Twins ended up the losers.
“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” Mauer said. When the Twins play the Yankees, it never is.