MINNEAPOLIS — Teams that excel hitting home runs, juiced baseballs that are the norm in 2019 and a warm evening portended the kind of game that was to come.
Even so, the first five innings of Monday night’s Yankees-Twins contest were ridiculous, with the clubs combining to hit seven homers. It settled down a bit after those fireworks, but the Twins had built enough of a cushion to send the Yankees to a second straight loss, 8-6, at Target Field.
“I know they’re capable obviously of having nights like that, and if you make mistakes this is a team up and down the lineup that can hurt you with the long ball,” Aaron Boone said.
The AL Central-leading Twins (61-38) came in with 182 home runs, putting them on pace to hit 300, which would smash the 2018 Yankees’ season record of 267. On Monday the Twins went deep five times, getting two homers from Mitch Garver and one apiece from Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz and Max Kepler.
CC Sabathia allowed four of the home runs, a season high for the 39-year-old lefthander. Sabathia allowed seven runs (six earned) and six hits in four innings, just the second time in 16 starts that he failed to complete at least five innings.
Polanco and Cruz homered back to back in the first to make it 2-0.
“Just like our lineup, it’s a tough lineup to face,” Sabathia said. “You’ve got to be sharp and I wasn’t tonight.”
The AL East-leading Yankees (64-35) entered fifth in the big leagues with 165 homers and hit three Monday night. Gio Urshela, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu went deep. LeMahieu was 3-for-4 and also walked. Mike Tauchman went 3-for-4 to make him 11-for-his-last-19 but there was far more frustration than not for Yankees hitters. They went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
Their biggest failures were in the first and last innings. In the ninth, when Taylor Rogers got out of a runners-at-the-corners and one-out jam in the ninth. And in the first when, after leadoff walks to LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground smash to Luis Arraez, who started a 5-4-3 triple play. It was the Twins’ first triple play since June 1, 2017. It was the first one the Yankees hit into since July 25, 2017, when the Reds did it on a play started by Todd Frazier.
“Yep,” the slow-footed Encarnacion said with a wary smile, asked if off the bat he thought the Twins had a shot at the triple play. “It’s one of those plays it’s good for them and bad for us. We’re trying to build at the beginning a rally and on this one play it went their way.”
Sabathia’s counterpart, Martin Perez, allowed five runs and seven hits, including the three homers, over four innings. Four relievers limited the Yankees to one run the rest of the way.
Judge and Encarnacion singled with one out in the ninth against Rogers, putting runners at the corners, but a horribly slumping Gary Sanchez finished an 0-for-5 night by striking out, extending his slide to 7-for-63. Aaron Hicks then grounded to the pitcher.
“Those are some good pitches in the zone that I usually connect \[on\],” Sanchez said through his translator, speaking in general about the slump. “Right now, either I’m fouling those off or just missing those. But we have to keep working. Find a way to get back on track.”
The Yankees fell behind 7-3 after four but LeMahieu’s two-run blast, his 15th homer, in the fifth off Perez made it 7-5. Tauchman’s third hit of the night, a one-out RBI single in the sixth off lefthander Lewis Thorpe, made it 7-6. But Carver homered off Luis Cessa, who pitched a scoreless fifth, with one out in the sixth to make it 8-6.
“You have to be precise,” Boone said of his pitchers. “And just not quite enough tonight.”