EditorsNote: Adds quotes
NEW YORK — Didi Gregorius highlighted a seven-run third inning with a grand slam, and the New York Yankees seized a commanding two-games-to-none lead in the American League Division Series with an 8-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
The Yankees won their 12th straight postseason game against the Twins, beginning with Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS. It is the longest winning streak by one team over any opponent in the postseason, and the Yankees are 15-2 all-time against Minnesota in the playoffs. What’s more, Minnesota has lost its last 15 postseason games, the longest playoff losing streak in major league history.
The Yankees led 3-0 when Gregorius came up against Tyler Duffey — who struck out Gregorius on four pitches in Game 1. Gregorius fell behind 0-2, took a ball in the dirt then fouled off a pitch before sending a high fastball into the second deck in right field, tucking the drive just a few feet inside the foul pole.
Gregorius appeared to will it fair and then earned a curtain call following his fourth career postseason homer.
“I knew it was fair, but just thinking back to my at-bats that I had against (Duffey) yesterday, and after I had two strikes, he threw me that fastball, so I was prepared for it this time after he threw me the curveball in the dirt,” Gregorius said after the game. “I was ready for it this time, so that’s why my reaction was like that.”
It was New York’s 12th postseason grand slam and first since Robinson Cano hit one in Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS against Detroit.
Edwin Encarnacion hit an RBI single in the first over the leap of shortstop Jorge Polanco, and the Yankees knocked out Minnesota starter Randy Dobnak (0-1) with two singles and a walk in the third inning. The Yankees extended the lead on Giancarlo Stanton’s warning-track sacrifice fly and Gleyber Torres’ RBI single to start the third.
After Gregorius homered, the Yankees added their eighth run when Brett Gardner hit an RBI single off Devin Smeltzer that scored DJ LeMahieu.
Mitch Garver hit an RBI single in the fourth inning, and he scored on an RBI double by Luis Arraez in the ninth for Minnesota, which has never overcome a 2-0 series deficit in the wild-card era.
“We handle our business and do what we do in a very particular way,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “and we’ve done it our way all year long. ... We’re not going to change that because we’re down 0-2 in a playoff series or for any other reason.
“We rely on ourselves. We pick ourselves up. We’ve done a great job with that all year long. Any sort of stretch where things aren’t going well, that’s fine. We’re going to deal with that, and we’re going to be perfectly OK, and we’re going to come out fighting and ready to go.”
The Twins struck out 14 times and went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Miguel Sano struck out four times, a night after hitting one of the Twins’ three homers in Game 1.
New York’s Masahiro Tanaka (1-0) allowed one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
The Twins squandered an early chance to go ahead when Eddie Rosario hit into a double play with runners on first and second to end the first. After Minnesota scored its run in the fourth inning and still had two on and one out, Tanaka ended the threat by striking out Arraez and Sano.
Four relievers followed Tanaka and allowed one run the rest of the way. The game ended when Jonathan Loaisiga struck out Sano.
A week after getting married, Dobnak allowed four runs on six hits in two-plus innings, with two walks and no strikeouts. He was named the starter instead of Jake Odorizzi after the 10-4 loss in Game 1 on Friday.
Many fans in Yankee Stadium, aware of Dobnak’s background as an Uber driver, directed loud chants of “Uber, Uber” in his direction.
—Field Level Media