10/06/2004 8:26 PM ET
Twins lose the battle in equalizer
Bullpen falters in 12th inning, series tied
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
|Brad Radke awaits the next batter after giving up a homer to Derek Jeter in the first. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
Hunter's go-ahead homer: 56K | 350K
Koskie's RBI ground-rule double: 56K | 350K
NEW YORK -- What did you get when a thrilling Twins comeback met head-on with Yankee Stadium mystique?
Torii Hunter broke a 5-5 tie with a home run in the top of the 12th inning. But before Minnesota could leave town with two road wins in the American League Division Series, the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the 12th off closer Joe Nathan to escape with a stunning 7-6 Game 2 victory on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
The best-of-five series is now split, 1-1, as play shifts to Minnesota for Friday's Game 3.
"He was still throwing the ball 95, 96 miles an hour," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He told us he wanted it."
Nathan, who already had two scoreless innings in the book, went out instead of rookie Jesse Crain or struggling lefty J.C. Romero. The right-hander retired his first batter but then threw nine straight balls. He issued back-to-back one-out walks to Miguel Cairo and Derek Jeter.
A 1-1 pitch to Alex Rodriguez was launched to the wall in left field for an RBI ground-rule double. Gary Sheffield was intentionally walked to load the bases and Romero was called in from the bullpen.
"No excuses out there," Nathan said. "I made a pitch and he hit it. I'm disappointed with the walks more than the double."
Hideki Matsui flied Romero's first pitch into shallow right field. As Jeter tagged up, Jacque Jones caught the ball and fired to Matthew LeCroy cutting off from first base. Jeter slid home safely ahead of LeCroy's relay to the plate.
"It just didn't work out for us," Gardenhire said. "It's a little disappointing now. Joe feels terrible, but he did everything he could possibly do. Probably left him out there too long, but really, the options, I didn't like them too well, either."
Suddenly, leaving town with a split wasn't quite as satisfying.
"We're greedy," said Hunter, who was 3-for-6 in the game. "It's frustrating because you know you could have been 2-0. But we've got to accept 1-1."
When the two teams head to the Metrodome for Friday's Game 3, Minnesota will try to avoid repeating last year's ALDS outcome. In that series, the club split the first two games in the Bronx and felt almost giddy. Then it dropped two in a row at home to be eliminated from the postseason.
"I don't feel good," third baseman Corey Koskie said of the split. "We had a chance to go home with 2-0 lead on the Yankees going back to the Metrodome. It could have been pretty fun."
Especially after the way the Twins battled back. Especially because they knew they had already gotten the best of Mariano Rivera and beat him.
-- More Facts machine information
Blues for 2|
Minnesota trailed, 5-3, in the eighth when Yankees setup man Tom Gordon put two runners on with one out to hasten Mariano Rivera's arrival from the bullpen.
Rivera, one of the postseason's all-time best relievers, converted 30 of his previous 32 save opportunities in the playoffs. In last year's ALDS vs. Minnesota, he recorded a pair of dominant two-inning saves. In the 2004 regular season, he was 53-for-57 in save chances.
This time, the Twins made this usually surest of moves backfire on the Yankees.
Justin Morneau pulled Rivera's first pitch to right field for an RBI single that scored Jones. The next batter, Corey Koskie, battled in an eight-pitch showdown and finally succeeded by lofting a ground-rule double to short left field that scored Hunter and tied the game at 5.
Twins starter Brad Radke gave up five runs, including three home runs, through 6 1/3 innings. But the bullpen trio of Grant Balfour, Juan Rincon and Nathan shut the Yankees down for 4 2/3 innings.
But they were still left one bullet short from putting New York down, maybe for good.
"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Koskie said. "You look at that lineup, boy, that's why those dudes get paid so much. We have to battle. We're not defeated. They won a battle, we won a battle. We'll see what happens with the war."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.