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Yankees 3, Twins 4: Comeback in the ninth falls just short

The Yankees needed one big hit most of the night, and it never came.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure how to feel about this one. The Yankees had won four in a row, and it’s always hard to get a mop, no matter who you’re playing. Their starter was capped from the outset, and the lineup resembled a spring training game more than a September showdown with a potential playoff opponent. If there was one game to give in this series, it was this one. Yet it was still annoying, the offense should have done more, and the Yankees lost to the Twins, 4-3.

Miguel Andújar was the extra man for yesterday’s doubleheader, and immediately returned to Triple-A Scranton last night. However, with DJ LeMahieu moved to the IL earlier today, Miggy was back up with the club, and boy did he make the Yankees look smart in the second inning:

The Yankees were ahead 2-0 in the second inning! That was also pretty much all that they did offensively for most of the game! Usually, it’s been Aaron Judge driving the big home run to get the Yankees in business early before the team goes to sleep for a couple of innings, but today, that was Andújar’s job with his first of the season in the majors.

We knew that Nestor Cortes came into the game with a pitch limit, making his first start in 18 days after an IL stint. and I think it’s safe to assume the limit was somewhere around 60. He threw 11 in a sparkling first inning, but our old friend Gio Urshela ate up a chunk of Cortes’ allotted pitches leading off the second, seeing nine.

Still, despite that, Cortes was terrific, nay, perfect, through four innings. He only had a couple of strikeouts, but retired all 12 men he saw, including getting Carlos Correa himself on a nifty fielding play — he also struck Correa out in the first inning, to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd.

Urshela proved to be the bane of Nestor’s existence tonight, though. He led off the fourth with a single to break up the run of perfection, but of course the pitch count was never going to allow a serious pursuit. The former Yankee moved to second on what should have been a passed ball, which was darkly amusing given that Gary Sánchez was standing at the plate. Shortly thereafter, Sánchez drove a ball into the gap to make it 2-1. Nestor’s night was over, and Clarke Schmidt was left to navigate the runner on second with nobody out.

A walk, a strikeout, and Schmidt just needed a ground ball to escape the inning, but got the wrong kind of groundball, as Nick Gordon found a hole to make it 2-2. Both runs were charged to Cortes, but it wouldn’t be until the eighth that things got out of hand.

Wandy Peralta had the inning, and went to cover first on a weak Jake Cave grounder. Failing to receive the ball cleanly, he pinned it against his belly, which was ruled to not be having control of the ball, and Cave was awarded first base despite Peralta’s foot clearly beating him to the bag. Greg Weissert came into the game two batters later, taking on Correa, who of course, did what he does:

Judge did his best to get the Yankees back in it, leading off the bottom half with a double, moving to third on a groundout, and coming home on a wild pitch that Sánchez couldn’t corral. With the score 4-3, runners on the corners and two out, Giancarlo Stanton saw his first action since Monday, a nine-pitch showdown that nevertheless ended in a strikeout, way ahead of a curveball in the dirt.

That left things up to the ninth inning, with Judge due up fourth. It’s a sign of his season, and the state of the roster, that we were all thinking “just get it to Judge.” He’s having the best season by a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez, but even in A-Rod’s best years, 2005 or 2007, the lineup was deep enough that even though Alex was The Guy, he didn’t need to be The Guy every time. It feels like Judge has to be The Guy all the time.

Tonight, he didn’t really have to be. Oswald Peraza singled, and Aaron Hicks managed a double into right to put two men in scoring position with one out. Of course, Rocco Baldelli, a coward, put Judge on intentionally. All Gleyber Torres had to do was get a ball in the air to the outfield, or, honestly, take four pitches from Michael Fulmer, not known as a strike thrower.

Unfortunately, home-plate umpire Larry Vanover forced Gleyber’s hand with a truly terrible strike two. The first strike was arguable, it looked worse on TV than Statcast had it, but it was borderline. The second wasn’t close, and it forces Gleyber to swing at the final pitch. Isiah Kiner-Falefa bounced out to end the game.

This was a frustrating one, and like most losses this year can be blamed on the lineup disappearing for four or five innings at a time. Still, the Yankees took three of four and can tool up to take on Tampa in what might be the biggest series of the season, with the first game coming Friday night at 7:05pm Eastern with Frankie Montas facing Drew Rasmussen.

Box Score