Well, that was easy.
Against the Twins in the postseason, that's the way it goes for the Yankees.
Behind a brilliant outing by Phil Hughes, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of their personal playoff piñata, taking out the Twins with a 6-1 victory last night in front of a Stadium-record crowd of 50,840.
The Yankees, in beating the Twins in the ALDS for a ninth straight game, advanced to the American League Championship Series, which begins Friday night in either Arlington, Texas, or St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rangers hold a two-games-to-one lead over the Rays, with Game 4 today.
The Yankees also bounced the Twins from the playoffs in 2003, 2004 and 2009. "We wanted to finish this today because you don't want to give any team any hope,'' said Derek Jeter, perhaps mindful of what happened to the Yankees against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. "We were fortunate. They were playing as well as anyone the second half. We got hot at the right time.''
Said Mark Teixeira, "We didn't look at this as if we needed to win one of the next three; we wanted to win tonight. The more confidence you give another team, momentum can shift pretty quickly. That's a good team over there. We've beaten them two years in a row in six games, but it wasn't easy.''
Hughes didn't seem at all like a 24-year-old making his first postseason start, pitching spectacularly. With a mid-90s fastball that he commanded as well as he has all season and a biting curve, he allowed four hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked one.
"I tried to treat it like any other start,'' he said. "I knew there'd be some nerves there, some extra nerves with a packed house. But I really just tried to calm myself and pitch well . . . My fastball was there. I felt like I had a really good one, and location was the key.''
Kerry Wood, unscored on in his first two appearances of the postseason, got in trouble in the eighth, allowing a double, two singles and a walk to the first five Twins batters he faced. That made it 6-1 and loaded the bases with one out, but lefthander Boone Logan got Jason Kubel to pop up his first pitch to Alex Rodriguez. David Robertson then got Delmon Young to fly to center to strand three runners.
The Yankees, as they did in most of Hughes' starts in the regular season, gave him plenty of run support, scoring solo runs in the second and third before putting up three in the fourth, two on Marcus Thames' homer. Nick Swisher's seventh-inning blast made it 6-0.
"They have a great team over there,'' Swisher said. "To be able to put them down like we did tonight is definitely saying something.''
But this night, as the Bronx crowd continued to remind just about every half-inning, was about Huuuuggghhhes, who didn't allow a hit through three innings and didn't allow a runner to reach second until the fifth.
In the second, Robinson Cano lined a ball over Denard Span's head in left-center for a leadoff triple. One out later, Jorge Posada lined Brian Duensing's first pitch to left for a 1-0 lead. It was Posada's 41st career postseason RBI, allowing him to pass Mickey Mantle for ninth on the all-time list.
It also was the first time since Game 4 of the 2003 ALDS that the Yankees have scored first against the Twins in a playoff game. Minnesota had done it in the previous nine ALDS games against the Yankees, who won in four games in 2004 and three games in 2009.
With two outs in the third, Swisher doubled to left-center and scored on Teixeira's single off the wall in left.
In the fourth, Cano singled to bring up Thames, who hit .300 (39-for-130) with five homers and 14 RBIs against lefthanders this season. He sent Duensing's first pitch into the seats in rightfield for a two-run homer and a 4-0 lead. That gave the Yankees seven hits to the Twins' one at that point. Duensing struck out Posada, but after he walked Curtis Granderson, Ron Gardenhire replaced him with Matt Guerrier.
Granderson took off on Guerrier's 0-and-1 pitch - a strike to Brett Gardner - and went to third when Mauer's throw sailed into center. Gardner's sacrifice fly to left made it 5-0.
Swisher homered on Scott Baker's third pitch of the seventh for a 6-0 lead.