MINNEAPOLIS - Mark Teixeira received a cortisone shot in his throbbing right wrist three weeks ago, and it hadn't paid immediate dividends. But more important than numbers, the first baseman felt a difference.
"It helped a little bit,'' Teixeira said after batting practice Wednesday. "You saw the last couple weeks of the regular season I was taking better swings.''
The one he took in the seventh inning Wednesday night certainly qualified.
Batting lefthanded, the switch hitter skied a two-run homer off Twins righthander Jesse Crain with one out to break a tie and send the Yankees to a 6-4 victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Target Field.
"Game-winning home runs, there's nothing better," said Teixeira, who has been playing with a broken right pinky toe and deep bone bruise on the base of his right thumb for more than a month. "When you have a chance to put your team up, especially on the road against a very good Minnesota Twins team, it was a great feeling."
Teixeira also won Game 2 of last year's Division Series, hitting an 11th inning homer off Jose Mijares.
"I think Game 1 is the most important no matter what," said Curtis Granderson, whose two-run triple in the sixth gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead. "Anytime you can go ahead and pick up the first game in a series, you're able to go ahead and hopefully carry that momentum over to the next day."
It was the first outdoor playoff game in Minneapolis since 1970. The noisy sellout crowd of 42,032 was left wondering if the Twins, who led 3-0 going to the sixth before the Yankees scored four runs to silence them, will ever beat the defending world champions.
They did just fine against CC Sabathia. The Twins scored four runs - three earned - in six innings off the ace.
"It was just a grind," Sabathia said. "After I gave up the three runs I was just trying to keep it where it was at and these guys came back and did a good job of scoring runs."
Francisco Liriano, after shutting out the Yankees for five innings, couldn't hold a 3-0 lead, surrendering four runs in the sixth.
Mariano Rivera finished a four-out save, his record 40th in the postseason, by getting Jim Thome on a pop-up with Delmon Young on first. Young was credited with a two-out single on a sinking liner to rightfield, although replays appeared to indicate that defensive replacement Greg Golson caught the ball.
Rivera came on in the eighth with runners and second and third and two outs and retired Denard Span on a grounder to shortstop.
Teixeira suffered a deep bone bruise on his right hand diving for a ball Aug. 28 and sustained a broken right pinky toe Aug. 31 when he was hit by a pitch. He received a cortisone shot in his right wrist when the Yankees traveled to Baltimore Sept. 17. Joe Girardi first mentioned it to reporters Wednesday.
"It has gotten better but at the same time you learn to deal with it," Teixeira said. "You know, you break your toe and bruise your hand in the same week, you're like you don't have feet or hands to work with. But the toe has gotten better, the hand has gotten better with the shot. Right now there's no time for worrying about taking days off and getting better. You know it is what it is and I feel good enough to play."
Teixeira, who hit .232 in September and was 2-for-14 in the season-ending series in Boston, thought he was making better contact toward the end of the season.
His one-out double jump-started the Yankees' four-run sixth. After Sabathia walked Danny Valencia in the sixth with the bases loaded to tie it at 4, Teixeira tucked Crain's 3-and-2 pitch just inside the rightfield foul pole to make it 6-4.
"Looking for a pitch up," Teixeira said. "Battled, got to 3-and-2 and he did leave a pitch up and I put a pretty good swing on it."
Sabathia put the Yankees in an early hole. He hit Thome with a 1-and-2 pitch to lead off the second and fell behind Michael Cuddyer 2-and-0. Cuddyer, only 11-for-52 but with one homer in his career against Sabathia, launched the lefthander's next pitch, a fastball, to dead center to make it 2-0 and send the white-towel-waving crowd into hysterics.
The Twins made it 3-0 in the third on an unearned run.
After Derek Jeter's third-inning single, Liriano retired 10 straight before Teixeira's double opened the floodgates in the four-run sixth.
Teixeira went to third on Liriano's wild pitch with Alex Rodriguez up. A-Rod walked and Robinson Cano grounded an RBI single to right that brought in Teixeira. Marcus Thames struck out but Posada hit Liriano's 3-and-1 slider into right to make it 3-2. Granderson sent a 2-and-1 pitch off the facing of the wall in right-center, a two-run triple for a 4-3 Yankees lead.
"Big hits for these guys," Girardi said of Granderson and Teixeira. "Tex had a big hit against Minnesota last year as well. But what they did, to be able to get six runs in those two innings, I mean that's not easy to do in playoff baseball."