What a relief: Yankees rally past Twins
NEW YORK — About 20 minutes into the American League wild-card game, the Minnesota Twins stunned the Yankees with three early runs, enough to knock out New York starting pitcher Luis Severino.
Then the Yankees put on a power display on the mound and at the plate, setting up a celebration and their next order of business — a date with the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series.
Severino was lifted after recording one out into the first inning, but Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first and four relievers combined on 13 strikeouts as New York stormed back for an 8-4 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday.
Brian Dozier opened the game by hitting Severino’s fifth pitch into the first row of the left field seats fence, and Eddie Rosario lined the right-hander’s 17th pitch into the right field seats for a two-run shot. Two more hits sprung the bullpen into action, beginning with Chad Green.
Green struck out two with runners on second and third, and the Yankees quickly rebounded from the stunning start.
“That’s a huge spot,” Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said. “We expect Green to get out of that. That’s who he is, that’s what he’s done, and that’s our bullpen.”
Gregorius tied the game by hitting Ervin Santana’s full-count fastball over the right field fence with one out in the first, and Brett Gardner gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead by lifting another full-count fastball into the right field seats in the second inning.
“Scoring those runs right in the first inning, just that there was — what I’ve seen all year, is the fight in this club,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I saw it in spring training. I did. But you see the resolve, and they never get down.”
After the Twins tied it 4-4 in the top of the third, Greg Bird hit a go-ahead single off Jose Berrios (0-1) in the bottom of the third. An inning later, Aaron Judge slugged Berrios’ 0-1 curveball into the left field stands.
“We got down early,” Judge said. “With the type of bullpen we have, the lineup, we’re never out of a ballgame.”
By then the Yankees were continuing their historic bullpen performance, tying the major league record for strikeouts by relievers in a postseason game and matching a team record for relief innings. The Yankees tied the strikeout mark set by the Chicago Cubs, who did it in six innings during Game 4 of the 2015 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
New York matched the team mark for relief innings set in Game 6 of the 1958 World Series against the Milwaukee Braves, a 4-3, 10-inning Yankees victory.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Judge said. “Big-time players, they make big-time plays in big-time games, that’s what they do.”
Green was the only New York reliever to get scored upon, the run coming hom on Byron Buxton’s groundout against David Robertson with the bases loaded in the third. Robertson worked out of the bases-loaded jam, pitched a career-high 3 1/3 innings and was awarded the win by the official scorer.
“I feel like our entire team never gives up, and we’re always going to grind and try to win a ballgame,” Robertson said.
Aaron Hicks drove in the Yankees’ other run with a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. Relievers Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman finished off New York’s first playoff victory since Sabathia pitched a complete game in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles.
Kahnle delivered 2 1/3 scoreless frames, and Chapman finished it off by allowing a hit and striking out three in the ninth.
The Twins dropped their 13th straight playoff game after Santana was unable to protect the early lead. It is tied for the longest postseason losing streak in baseball history, matching the Boston Red Sox from Oct. 25, 1986-Oct. 6, 1995.
Minnesota’s last playoff victory was a 2-0 shutout at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 5, 2004. During the current streak, 10 of the Twins’ postseason defeats were against the Yankees.
“I think you just understand that you’ve got to find ways to persevere through a game like that because there’s a lot of pitches thrown,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “There’s a lot of lead changes early, and unfortunately it got to their ‘pen and all those guys did an outstanding job.
“There was a lot of — as far as mood swings early, they were obviously just because of the way that the pendulum swung.”
Santana allowed four runs and three hits in two innings. Berrios gave up three runs and five hits in three frames.
“It stings right now,” Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said. “We had some chances. Unfortunately, we came up a little short.”
NOTES: Twins manager Paul Molitor said the decision to keep 3B/DH Miguel Sano (shin) off the roster stemmed from Sano not being able to generate enough force and power with his front leg during batting practice Monday. Molitor also said Sano was experiencing some discomfort during the Sunday game. ... New York LHP Chasen Shreve, who is among several major-leaguers from Las Vegas, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in tribute to the victims of the mass shooting on Sunday. ... RF Aaron Judge was the first Yankees rookie to homer in a postseason game since Hideki Matsui in Game 2 of the 2003 World Series.