Some Pinstripe Alley recappers might prefer tense nail-biter games that go right down to the wire, with everyone on the edge of their seats until the final out. Not me, though. No siree, Bob. Give me a nice stress-free game with the Yankees dropping double digits on an unfortunate opponent every time. On this night, against a team that New York was 109-38 against since 2002, the offense came through — a good thing, as Jameson Taillon looked mortal tonight, the first time a Yankee starter has done that in what seems like weeks.
The Yankees had the decency to greet young Cole Sands quite rudely in this one. After DJ LeMahieu led off with a first-pitch single, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate and absolutely obliterated a high 93-mph fastball 431 feet to center field. Before the Twins even recorded an out, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead. All Rise for dinger number 22:
Sands managed to strike out Anthony Rizzo, but he was considerably less successful with Giancarlo Stanton. Sands left a cement-mixer out over the heart of the plate, and Big G did what Big G does.
111.8 mph off the bat, 445 feet to left field, and 3-0, Yankees. Sands managed to get out of the first without giving up any more runs, but the Bombers were off to an excellent start.
Minnesota came out swinging in defense of their rookie starter in the bottom of the first. After Byron Buxton hit a one-out double off Taillon, Jorge Polanco (who had a four-hit night ahead) singled to put runners on the corners. Next, Max Kepler ambushed Taillon’s first pitch, hitting a fly ball to Joey Gallo. The right fielder made a solid throw to the plate, but Buxton’s speed allowed him to score, cutting the New York lead to 3-1. Taillon stopped the bleeding there though, inducing a harmless groundball from former Yankee Gary Sánchez to end the frame.
The score stayed there until the bottom of the third when Polanco managed to get ahold of an 0-2 fastball from Taillon. With Luis Arraez on first, Polanco ripped the pitch into the right-center field gap and Arraez, on his horse with two outs, managed to sneak in just ahead of the relay to cut the Yankee lead to one run. But Jamo escaped further damage, stranding two runners when he froze El Gary to end the inning.
That second run might have got the Yankees’ attention. In the top half of the fourth, Gallo hit a one-out shift-buster that LeMahieu followed with a walk to put two runners on for the incandescently hot Judge. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Judge ripped a 108-mph ground ball through the left side of the Twins’ infield to score Gallo.
Two-run lead restored.
Sands then fanned Rizzo, but Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli was not about to let the rookie face Giancarlo again. The Twins went to the ‘pen, calling on right-hander Juan Minaya. The reliever did his job, whiffing Stanton to strand two runners.
The Twins kept clawing away. After a Gio Urshela infield single where he advanced to second after an ill-advised throwing error by Donaldson, and a single by Gilberto Celestino, Jermaine Palacios lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to bring it back to a one-run game. Minnesota was determined to be annoying tonight. Taillon again minimized the damage though, this time striking out Buxton swinging to end the frame. On a night when Jamo was obviously not as sharp as his previous three starts, he still found a way to battle and not let the game get out of hand.
The Yankees punched back in the top of the fifth. After Aaron Hicks’ second hit of the day and a Jose Trevino walk, Gallo worked back from an 0-2 count to load the bases with two out for LeMahieu. DJ came through with a bases-loaded walk of his own. The third walk of the inning and LeMahieu’s third free pass with the sacks juiced so far this season; 5-3, Yankees.
And that spelled the end of the night for Minaya, as the Twins turned to Yennier Cano to try and retire Judge with the bases full of Yankees. Cano came through for Minnesota and whiffed Judge, stranding three.
Minnesota stubbornly refused to go away. In the bottom of the fifth, Polanco led off with a solo home run, again cutting the Yankee lead to one run. And after Kepler singled, Aaron Boone came to get Taillon, after the righty’s worst start in quite a while: four innings, nine hits, one walk, four earned runs, and just three strikeouts.
Lucas Luetge came into the game for the Yankees. His evening did not start well, as he sailed a pickoff throw to first base, allowing Kepler to move into scoring position on the Yankees’ third error of the night. It was the first time that the Yankees committed three errors in one game all season.* He recovered from there, however, and this one went to the sixth with the Yanks nursing their one-run lead.
*The Yankees really should’ve had four errors, but the Twins’ scorer weirdly changed an Isiah Kiner-Falefa error in the sixth to an infield hit for Palacios.
The Yankees finally got the big hit they’d been looking for in the seventh. LeMahieu singled for his third hit of the night and fifth time on base. For LeMachine, that knock was also the 1,500th of his career, so congratulations to DJ for that milestone.
LeMahieu with a milestone.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 8, 2022
1,500 career hits pic.twitter.com/jM66WGs7Vy
Judge then walked, passing the baton to Rizzo.
On a 3-1 pitch, the Yankees’ first baseman got his pitch, and he did not miss.
The 410-foot, three-run bomb gave New York an 8-4 lead. Their biggest hit since the opening frame finally gave them some wiggle room after stranding quite a few runners.
Wandy Peralta had entered in relief of Luetge the previous inning, and he kept the Twins at bay. After a double play wiped a leadoff single by Polanco off the board, the portside slinger got The Kraken to ground out, ending the frame. Peralta now has about the quietest 1.83 ERA you’ve ever seen.
More insurance came in the top of the eighth. After a Hicks walk for his fourth (!) time on base, Kiner-Falefa shot a single through the right side for his first hit. Trevino had been hitless to that point, but he did likewise and Hicks crossed the plate to extend the lead. Gallo followed with his second single of the night, and IKF crossed with yet another run to make it 10-4, New York.
From there, it looked like the game would be a drama-free affair. But in the top of the ninth, Donaldson found himself on the receiving end of some sweet chin music that had the YES booth openly wondering if there was a deeper message behind the brushback pitch to the former Twin. That might be something worth watching as the series progresses.
Other than that, the Yankee bullpen ensured this one was over. Ron Marinaccio came into the game for the Yankees in the eight, and closed this one out with two scoreless innings, though he plunked Buxton with a changeup that got away from him. Hopefully that’s the end of guys getting beaned and brushed back in this series.
This was a nice little win for the Yankees to kick off this three-game set in Minnesota, and they now sit an impressive 40-15, the first team in the majors to 40 wins in 2022. Tune in tomorrow night for game two, which will see Nasty Nestor Cortes face off against Chris Archer. Wednesday’s matchup could also feature our first look at Carlos Correa in Twins gear as he is expected to return to the lineup. First pitch: 7:40 EDT.