Even though the Yankees barely led in their Sunday matinee matchup, it still felt like a four-game sweep was inevitable. After all, they were facing the Twins, their perennial punching bags. Since 2002, they had gone an astounding 72-27 against Minnesota, a ridiculous .727 clip that would equal 117 wins over a full season. That sample does not even include the four playoff series wins since then, which were also mismatches with two sweeps and two four-game victories. The Yankees simply have the Twins’ number.
So maybe it shouldn’t be that much of a shock that the Twins had some breaks due their way against the Yankees. Brian McCann put the Yanks on the board first with a booming solo shot to right-center field that went 439 feet, decisively snapping his slump. Alex Rodriguez rewarded Brett Gardner’s leadoff double in the fourth with an RBI single to center. Nathan Eovaldi was not at the top of his game, but he still seemed to be getting the job done despite a Max Kepler solo homer in the fifth. Through five innings, he had allowed just the one run on three hits and two walks.
In the sixth though, the Twins’ bats came to life, with the help of some long-awaited fortune. With one out, Brian Dozier singled to center. Then as Dozier ran on a pitch, Trevor Plouffe singled through the second base hole, vacated when Starlin Castro went to cover the bag. Eduardo Escobar was up next, and while he made solid contact on a ball down the right field line, he broke his bat. Nonetheless, the ball dipped in and went all to the way for a two-run triple. Plouffe was initially called out at the plate, but further review confirmed that he expertly weaved his body around McCann’s tag to score the go-ahead run.
Dellin Betances entered to preserve the one-run margin, but not even he could hold back the Twins. Kepler singled to center to plate Escobar, stole second, and then crossed home plate when Kurt Suzuki lifted a double to left field. Although Betances is not an easy pitcher to face at all, the Twins found a way to add some much-needed insurance for their shaky bullpen. A Dozier homer off Kirby Yates in the next inning to make it 6-2 certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The Twins are a last-place team for a reason though, and the Yankees still managed to put themselves in a position to tie it up. Ervin Santana turned in a fine performance for the Twins on the day, going 7 1/3 innings while allowing two earned runs on six hits and no walks. The last hit of the day, an Ike Davis single in the eighth, drove him from the ballgame. Taylor Rogers relieved him and promptly made a throwing error on a ball hit by Jacoby Ellsbury. Then Plouffe had a miscue of his own, bringing home Davis with an unearned run on Santana’s record and sending the red hot Carlos Beltran to the plate as the tying run.
This was the Yankees’ big chance of the day, but it was just not meant to be. Rogers turned away their best hitter on a strikeout, and Brandon Kintzler also came through by forcing Alex Rodriguez to whiff as the tying run, too. The inning was over, the Twins added another insurance run against Nick Goody, and despite another massive McCann homer to lead off the ninth (out of Target Field entirely!), a final Yankees rally did not come to pass.
The Yankees will have to settle for at four-game series victory and a 3-3 road trip against the Rockies and Twins. Considering that those teams are bad, it definitely could have gone better, even with the three-game winning streak in the middle. They will face those teams again this week at Yankee Stadium and hopefully fare better. There is an off-day tomorrow, but the Yankees return to action on Tuesday night against Colorado. Ivan Nova will have a rematch against Chad Bettis with first pitch coming at 7:05pm.