Gregorius, Judge propel Yankees to sweep of Twins
NEW YORK — The personal milestones were nice, and sweeping the Minnesota Twins to widen their lead in the American League wild-card race also was enjoyable for the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
What weighed on their minds was the controversial issue of protective netting in seats closest to the field.
While Didi Gregorius set a team record for home runs by a shortstop with a three-run shot and Aaron Judge hit his AL-leading 45th homer in a 11-3 win over Minnesota, a little girl was struck in the face by a foul ball in the fifth inning.
“You hate to see anyone get hit like that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t know if the netting was expanded if they still don’t get hit. How far does it go? That’s something up above, they make the decisions on. But it’s sad when you see people get hit. I’ve seen it as a catcher. It’s something that I think everyone is looking into.”
“I just saw it from the dugout,” New York left-hander CC Sabathia said. “I feel like we need to get the net. I think every ballpark should have it. “
The Yankees held a 9-3 lead when Todd Frazier sent a foul ball screaming down the third base line at 106 mph. The ball hit a little girl in the face and medical attention was immediately requested.
“I saw the whole thing,” Frazier said. “I know the dad or whoever was with her was trying their hardest but when that ball’s coming 120 miles an hour at them and the ball’s hooking and you’ve never seen a ball like that, which most people in the world haven’t, it’s tough.”
The game stopped for four minutes as Frazier knelt outside the batter’s box while New York’s Matt Holliday and Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier said a prayer and fans and players looked on in silence.
The Yankees said the girl received first aid at Yankee Stadium and was taken to an area hospital but the incident increased the call for netting to be mandatory at each stadium. It is in place in Minnesota but not in place at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s all up to the owners,” Dozier said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say the wrong thing but we’re definitely trying to get everybody to do it. I know we implemented it, Target Field being the closest to home plate. We put up a little rule that a certain amount of distance you got to have one. But I say put them all the way down, all the way down.”
Before the scary incident, the Yankees rallied from a 3-0 deficit by scoring three in the third on Judge’s latest homer — which also made him the fourth rookie in team history to get 100 RBIs — followed by Sanchez’s 32nd blast.
“These guys always put me in a good position,” Judge said. “There’s always runners on base for me.”
New York then pulled away with a six-run fourth. The Yankees took the lead on an RBI double by Greg Bird, which knocked out Bartolo Colon (4-6), before Brett Gardner and Sanchez added RBI singles.
Gregorius then broke Jeter’s 1999 record with his 25th homer by lifting a 2-2 pitch from Tyler Duffey into the right field seats.
After the little girl was attended to, the Yankees added their final runs as Holliday scored on a wild pitch and Judge went over 100 RBIs with a sacrifice fly.
Those runs allowed the Yankees (85-67) to win for the 15th time in 20 games and move seven games ahead of the Twins (78-74) for the first wild card.
Before New York surged ahead, Minnesota worked Luis Severino’s pitch count up with a 46-pitch third inning.
Joe Mauer capped a 13-pitch at-bat with an RBI single and Jorge Polanco followed with a two-run single for a 3-0 lead, but the Twins were never able to get another big hit and were outscored 18-6 in the three games.
“It didn’t take long for them to get back even,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “We kind of had to deal with some 0-2 mistakes in the series, including the home run to Judge and the fourth inning, we just couldn’t contain (it).”
Severino, who was moved up two days in the rotation, lasted three innings and allowed three runs and five hits. Chasen Shreve (4-1) pitched three hitless innings to earn the win and capitalized on the Yankees’ late surge.
Colon allowed six runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.
NOTES: New York OF Aaron Hicks (strained left oblique) will appear in a rehab game in the instructional league Monday and could return by the end of next week. ... Yankees RHP Adam Warren (lower back spasm) threw a bullpen session Wednesday and could throw another one over the weekend before continuing his rehab with a simulated game Sunday. ... Minnesota SS Jorge Polanco is the only Twin who faced New York RHP Luis Severino in the minor leagues.