The sky was falling in Yankeeland just a few days ago. The team had lost four straight games, two to the Rockies, and had sunk three games under .500 and into last place in the division. To many it felt like the beginning of the end. But then the team traveled to Minnesota, and as has happened so many times over the past 15 years, the Twins proved to be the perfect remedy.
The Yankees won their third straight game Saturday, a wild 7-6 contest in which they didn’t even score a run until the seventh inning. Early on it was a tale of two pitchers. Yankee starter Michael Pineda continued his confounding season, striking out nine Twins and walking none, but also getting hit hard at inopportune times. A pair of extra-base hits by Max Kepler and Brian Dozier, as well as an opposite-field bomb by Byung-ho Park helped Minnesota build up a 4-0 lead after the fourth. It appeared that that would be enough for them as the Yankees just couldn’t seem to figure out Ricky Nolasco.
Nolasco blanked the Yankees for six innings, scattering just six baserunners and striking out five. The team finally broke through against him in the seventh when Alex Rodriguez did his best Park imitation, serving up a two-run opposite-field homer of his own to cut the lead in half. It wasn’t until the eighth that the Yankees would climb all the way back into it, however. After Brett Gardner reached on an infield single, Carlos Beltran skied a Kevin Jepsen changeup to left field. The ball narrowly cleared the fence for a two-run shot to tie the game, Beltran’s second homer in as many days.
After Andrew Miller shut down the Twins in the bottom half of the inning, the Yankee offense got back to work in the ninth. A walk, bunt single, pass ball and intentional walk loaded the bases with no one out. After Starlin Castro struck out in a pinch-hit appearance, Jacoby Ellsbury worked a full count before ripping a groundball single through the left side to give the Yankees a two-run lead. Gardner would add an insurance run with a sac-fly to make it 7-4.
Aroldis Chapman had a rare hiccup in the ninth, serving up back to back home runs to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki with two outs, but ultimately got out of the inning to preserve the victory.
The Play: Beltran’s game-tying wall-scraper in the eighth (+.314 WPA)
Beltran’s homer traveled just 358 feet and came off the bat at 93 mph. It was the definition of “just-enough”, but that didn’t stop it from being the biggest moment of the game.
Yankees: Carlos Beltran (3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Twins: Eduardo Escobar (2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI)
-Beltran’s homer was his 18th of the season, which nearly matches his total of 19 from 2015 with more than half a season still to play.
-Didi Gregorius continued his hot hitting by going 3 for 4. His bunt single in the ninth helped spur the rally that resulted in three runs.
“He’s been doing this for a long time now. He’s a professional hitter and understands what he needs to do. He’s been really big for all of us.” -Manager Joe Girardi on Carlos Beltran’s season
The Highlight: A-Rod breaks on through in the seventh
Like the Yankees themselves, A-Rod always seems to enjoy facing the Twins. He hit his 50th career home run against the club with this shot in the seventh. It got the Yankees on the board and helped usher Nolasco out of the game.
The Yankees will look for a four-game sweep on Sunday when they send Nathan Eovaldi to the mound. The Twins will look to stop the bleeding with Ervin Santana. Game time is 2:10 pm.
Lead photo: Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports, Video from MLB.com