Yankees vs. Twins in October — or any time of year — for years has been as predictable as cold in the winter, dysfunction in Washington and traffic on the Cross Bronx.
The managers change, the rosters change, but the verbiage does not: “No, really, the past is the past and this year could be different. This time, at last, the Yankees will get a modicum of resistance from a team that has long curled up in the fetal position at first opportunity against them.’’
Maybe on Saturday. Not on Friday night, though.
Indeed, ALDS Game 1 went the way that so many of these matchups do.
Though there was some palpable nervousness from the noisy sellout crowd of 49,233 when James Paxton allowed two early homers, the Yankees rode six extra-base hits to a 10-4 victory.
"First one's the biggest game,” Aaron Judge said after reaching base three times on a hit and two walks and making two diving catches in right. “The first one's always the biggest game. It sets the tone for the series. Especially getting it here at home and putting up 10 runs. That's big. And it's going to carry on into tomorrow. We have to just get ready for tomorrow's game and keep it rolling."
Gleyber Torres’ two-run double with the bases loaded in the fifth — on a 3-and-2 pitch after he fell behind 0-and-2 – snapped a 3-3 tie and DJ LeMahieu’s solo homer in the sixth and three-run double in the seventh sent the Yankees on their way. They improved to 100-37 against the Twins since 2002, including the postseason, in which they’ve won 11 straight against Minnesota.
Masahiro Tanaka, 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five career postseason starts, goes in Saturday’s Game 2.
“That’d be awesome,” Brett Gardner said of the potential of a 2-0 series lead. “It’s nice to get this first one under our belt. Obviously, we feel great about Masa going tomorrow. We’ll take things one day at a time but tomorrow, another must-win game for us.”
LeMahieu had three hits, Edwin Encarnacion added two doubles and Gardner, batting in the three-hole, hit a home run. LeMahieu, a Gold Glove fielder who made an embarrassing error when he dropped a routine pop-up in the second, hit his first career postseason homer to make it 6-4 and Gardner belted a drive into the second deck in rightfield later in the sixth to give the Yankees a three-run lead. An inning later, LeMahieu’s bases-clearing double made it 10-4.
The Twins had climbed within 5-4 on Miguel Sano’s homer off Tommy Kahnle in the top of the sixth. The Twins, who hit an MLB-record 307 homers (the Yankees hit 306), hit three homers to the Yankees’ two. All five were solo shots.
“We won a lot of 3-2 counts tonight,” Aaron Boone said. “I thought the guys, by and large, up and down the lineup, really made it tough on their pitchers because they stayed in the strike zone. When you do that, you’re able to have a night like tonight.”
Paxton, making his first career postseason start, allowed three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. The lefthander walked one and struck out eight. Boone, who all week said he planned to be “aggressive” with his deep bullpen, rolled out six relievers who allowed a combined one run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Paxton, who had a 9.00 ERA first-inning ERA this season and allowed 12 first-inning homers, allowed a solo blast to the second batter of the game, Jorge Polanco. Nelson Cruz made it 2-0 in the third with an opposite-field homer to right.
Twins starter Jose Berrios threw 48 pitches in the first two innings, and the Yankees broke through in the bottom of the third.
LeMahieu blooped one behind second and Luis Arraez had the ball glance off his glove (it was scored a hit). Judge lined a single to center and Gardner’s long fly to right allowed LeMahieu to get to third.
Encarnacion hammered a fastball to left for his second double, making it 2-1, and Giancarlo Stanton walked. Torres then hit a grounder to third that should have resulted in an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, but first baseman C.J. Cron couldn’t handle Arraez’s hurried throw (Stanton slid hard into second), and the error on Cron allowed two unearned runs to score, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
“We did a really good job against their pitchers,” LeMahieu said. “I feel like every one of their pitchers that came in pretty much had tough innings against us.”
More October familiarity when it comes to these two teams.