For most of the Yankees' Saturday matinee with the Twins, New York was frustrated. Michael Pineda turned in a serviceable but lacking start, and Ricky Nolasco flustered the Yankee bats all afternoon. In the end, the Yankees salvaged their winning streak with some late-inning heroics, downing Minnesota 7-6.
Things were straightforward enough in the early going for Pineda. He yielded a run in the second inning when Max Kepler doubled and scored on Eduardo Escobar's single, but managed a pair of one-two-three innings in the first and third.
Pineda gave up the Twins' biggest blast of the game in the fourth. Byung Ho Park, who hit 105 home runs across 2014 and 2015 while playing in the KBO, entered the day with 11 home runs in his first 56 major league games. He hit his 12th of the year when Pineda watched his fastball right down the middle fly over the right field wall.
In totality, it was something of a quintessential Pineda start. He flashed his typically impressive stuff, sitting around 95 mph with his fastball and generating plenty of swings and misses with his slider. He walked no one and struck out nine. But he left a couple of pitches out over the plate, and those mistakes were enough to blemish what could have been a strong outing. He finished with 5.1 innings pitched, and four runs allowed.
Pineda exited the game after colliding with Kepler while covering first base. He was visibly unhappy with the being removed from the game, indicating that whatever injury he sustained was minor. Anthony Swarzak relieved Pineda and allowed an inherited run to score on a sacrifice fly by Park.
On the other side, Nolasco breezed through the Yankee lineup. Groundball double plays in the first and in the third helped Nolasco face only the minimum nine batters through three innings. The Yankees hardly made him work for most of the game, as he needed just 76 pitches to shut out New York through the first six frames.
The Yankees finally got on the board in the seventh, as Alex Rodriguez smashed a crucial two run home run over the right field wall. It marked the first home run for A-Rod in over two weeks, as he had seen his season slash line fall to .218/.268/.401 prior to the game. It was a much needed spark for what appeared to be a dormant offense, as it sliced the deficit to 4-2.
Nolasco allowed singles to Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder to give the Yankees another threat, but Ike Davis left them both on base as he tapped weakly back to the pitcher to end the inning. It was one of Nolasco's best starts of the year, as he yielded just two runs in seven innings, fanning five and walking none. Sometimes, all that is needed to get a pitcher going in the right direction is a date with the Yankees' lineup.
However, there is still one Yankee that has been a terror to opposing pitchers all year. That is the indelible Carlos Beltran, who brought the Yankees back in the eighth inning. After Brett Gardner legged out an infield single, Beltran hit an opposite field blast to left off of Kevin Jepsen, tying the game at 4-4. It was Beltran's 18th of the season, as he raised his season line to .288/.321/.576.
Then, the Yankees were presented a rally by Twins closer Fernando Abad in the ninth. Headley walked, Gregorius bunted for a hit, and Refsnyder was intentionally walked after a passed ball allowed the runners to advance. Ryan Pressly came on to strike out pinch-hitter Starlin Castro, but Jacoby Ellsbury lined a single into right-center to drive in two for a 6-4 lead. The Yankees tacked on a (surprisingly-necessary) insurance run after a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Gardner.
Aroldis Chapman worked the bottom of the ninth for his 13th save of the season, but it wasn't without issue. Escobar and Kurt Suzuki delivered back-to-back two-out solo home runs to cut the Yankee lead to 7-6. Chapman finally induced a groundout by Trevor Plouffe to end what likely stands as the most exciting game of the season thus far.
It was an exhilarating win on a day when the Yankees appeared uninterested with winning for the first several innings. A game which seemed destined to be defined by frustration ended instead with elation. With the win, New York is at .500 again, and will have a chance to move above when they go for the sweep of Minnesota tomorrow. Nathan Eovaldi will be on the mound, for what will hopefully be a fourth straight Yankee win.