Games between the Yankees and Twins at this time of year bring to mind other non-competitive events from past falls.
FDR vs. Landon. Johnson vs. Goldwater. Nixon vs. McGovern. Reagan vs. Mondale.
These Yankees-Twins playoff matchups since 2003 have produced nothing but landslides, and the 2019 edition of the one-sided “rivalry” is poised to take its place among the others.
Sparked by another stellar postseason outing from Masahiro Tanaka and a grand slam from the previously slumping Didi Gregorius, the Yankees posted an 8-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 49,277 at the Stadium.
The Yankees, who lead the best-of-five series 2-0, earned their 12th straight postseason win over the Twins, who have lost 15 straight postseason games.
The Yankees’ biggest challenge appears to be convincing themselves that the Twins still have a chance of winning one game, let alone three.
What is Aaron Boone’s message to his team? “Throttle down,’’ he said. “Obviously, first home playoff game for them, I’m sure the crowd will be energized, and we need to go match it and I know we will. I know the guys. It will be throttle down and hopefully we can go get one.’’
“We’re not going to look too far ahead,’’ Tommy Kahnle said. “We’re just looking at the next game . . . We know how good they are, but our mindset coming in was to take care of business.”
The Yankees improved to a hard-to-comprehend 101-37 against the Twins, counting the postseason, since 2002.
“We rely on ourselves,’’ said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who will send Jake Odorizzi to the mound against Luis Severino on Monday in Minnesota. “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.”
Gregorius’ grand slam highlighted a seven-run third inning that broke open a 1-0 game. The inning also included a sacrifice fly by Giancarlo Stanton, RBI singles by Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner and two singles by Aaron Judge. Through three innings, the Yankees were outhitting the Twins 10-1.
Judge reached base four times on two hits and two walks. He had a hit and two walks in Game 1, so he has reached base seven times.
“All I’m thinking about is all the missed opportunities from years past, and I don’t want that to happen again this year,” said Judge, referring to losses in the 2017 ALCS and 2018 ALDS. “We’re hungry. You guys are seeing it. Up and down the lineup, guys are hungry. Everybody’s just clicking on all cylinders.”
Edwin Encarnacion, who had two doubles Friday, added two hits in Game 2, including an RBI single in the first for a 1-0 lead.
Tanaka allowed one run, three hits and one walk in five innings, striking out seven. “He’s an artist out there,’’ Judge said. “Every postseason he always has a special game.”
The bullpen, which allowed one run in 4 1⁄3 innings in Game 1, again performed well. Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Tyler Lyons and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up one run and three hits in four innings, striking out seven. Loaisiga allowed the run and two hits with two outs in the ninth.
Twins rookie righthander Randy Dobnak, whose popular backstory includes time as an Uber driver, had a predictably rough outing.
Dobnak, who started the season in Class A, got the assignment over established big-leaguer Jake Odorizzi because of the former’s ability to induce ground balls and the latter’s reputation as a fly-ball pitcher. Dobnak allowed hard-hit balls on the ground and in the air in his two innings-plus and was charged with four runs. He allowed six hits and walked two.
Just how commanding does a 2-0 lead feel?
“I don’t know about commanding, but it’s what we wanted to do,’’ Judge said. ‘’Like I said before, Game 1 was the most important [game], and then Game 2 became the most important, and now Game 3, going to Minnesota, is going to be the most important. They’re going to come out banging and come out swinging. But we just have to try and stay composed and put the pedal to the metal.”