Harris comes through for Twins
Utility man subs in for injured Tolbert and contributes
NEW YORK -- Playing behind third baseman Joe Crede for most of the 2009 season, Minnesota utility infielder Brendan Harris has a description for that level of preparedness needed to come into a game at any time.
"I was sitting on DEFCON 3 for most of the games," said Harris with a laugh, speaking after Friday's heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Yankees in 11 innings in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
"It's the way it goes," Harris said. "I'm pretty much ready to go."
Harris didn't start Friday's second successive playoff setback and ninth loss in nine games overall to the Yankees, including the postseason. But entering as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, Harris still had set himself up to be one of the Twins' heroes if closer Joe Nathan had been able to protect a two-run ninth-inning lead.
With a runner on second and two outs in the sixth, Harris stepped into the batter's box for starting third baseman Matt Tolbert, who left the game with a strained left oblique, and launched a triple to left-center off New York starter A.J. Burnett. The blast brought home Delmon Young and gave Minnesota a 1-0 advantage.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
In the eighth, with the game tied at 1, Harris continued a two-out rally off setup man Phil Hughes with a soft single to right that sent Carlos Gomez sprinting to third. Nick Punto and Denard Span followed with back-to-back singles, giving the Twins a 3-1 lead to hand over to the usually reliable Nathan.
And part of the reason why Nathan had the two-run advantage came from Harris' defensive gem in the bottom of the frame. Derek Jeter laced a one-out shot off reliever Matt Guerrier down the line, seemingly destined for extra bases, but Harris dove toward the base, gloved the baseball and straightened up to throw Jeter out at first.
Just another day's work for Harris, accomplished in the course of three innings.
"Yeah, I was thinking in the ninth, 'Two hours ago, I was just kind of sitting there and watching,' and now, 'Boom,'" Harris said.
Tolbert suffered Friday's injury on the second pitch of his first at-bat against Burnett that resulted in a second-inning groundout. It was one of those near-checked swings, as described by Tolbert, where his body rotated and his hands stayed back, but he felt the pain right away.
Minnesota's starting third baseman tried to play through it, and he actually delivered a single in the fourth that would have scored Young from second if Gomez wasn't caught straying too far rounding second on Nick Swisher's throw to Jeter for the inning's third out. But Tolbert could only make it through five.
"It got to where my throws from third base to first base, it was everything I had, and I could barely get it there," Tolbert said. "Then like running, I could not run. They hit a fly ball into the seats one time and I was trying to go after it. But I couldn't do it.
"If I had to make some kind of play here or score from second, I'm not going to be able to do it. It came to the point where I told them, 'I can't go anymore.'"
When the injury happened, Tolbert said he heard it and felt a little pop. It's the sort of injury that most likely will keep Tolbert out of action for Sunday's Game 3 at the Metrodome at 6:07 p.m. CT on TBS, meaning Harris will go from DEFCON 3 back to live action.
"To be honest, I haven't talked to him," Harris said. "I know it's a tough injury to turn the corner on in two days."
"I pulled it pretty good," Tolbert said. "I always wanted a chance to play in the postseason, so the fact that it happened now, it's very frustrating."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.