Timely hits elude Twins against Yankees
Minnesota goes 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position
NEW YORK -- It was an exhausting night that brought Minnesota to New York in the wee hours on Wednesday, as the Twins edged the Tigers in 12 innings Tuesday night in a tiebreaker game to emerge as the American League Central champions. And staring the sleep-deprived Twins in the eye was Yankees ace CC Sabathia, backed by the Majors' top scoring lineup. The notoriously loud Yankee Stadium crowd, brimming with fans eager to witness the first postseason game at the new ballpark, certainly didn't help.
But the Twins weren't ready to lean on a wealth of readily available excuses following Wednesday's 7-2 loss in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
"That's all it is, we just didn't do our job," right fielder Jason Kubel said.
For a small-ball team known for playing the game the "right way," Game 1 got away from Minnesota's mantra. Instead, there were pitching woes and an offense that started strong, but sputtered to the finish line.
"They jumped out on us," Denard Span said of the Yankees, who scored seven unanswered runs and dominated the game's final 5 1/2 frames.
"We scored two quick runs, but then they came back quick. And CC was just pitching so good, it was just kind of hard to get any momentum going. Any time we got an opportunity to maybe put some more runs on the board, it just seemed like he got tougher and tougher."
Span got to Sabathia right away, doubling to left-center field to open the game. But Orlando Cabrera and reigning AL batting champion Joe Mauer struck out, and Sabathia induced a fly ball from Michael Cuddyer.
"Runs against these guys -- or anybody in the postseason -- are huge," Mauer said. "And it was a little frustrating not getting that one in."
It was a scene that would become all too familiar to the Twins. A two-run lead, courtesy of a string of three two-out hits in the third inning, was erased by Derek Jeter's home run in the bottom of the same frame.
And with it went the Twins' momentum.
Despite outhitting New York, 10-9, Minnesota went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine and striking out 12 times as a team.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
"Especially against this team, when you get guys in scoring position, you got to get the big hits," Span said. "That's what it's going to take to beat the New York Yankees."
The Twins had their chances, putting runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning and coming up empty after Mauer's leadoff single in the eighth. Yankees reliever Phil Hughes came on for Sabathia with two outs in the seventh inning and won a battle with Cabrera, fanning the hot-hitting shortstop on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
"I want that pitch back," Cabrera said, referring the third strike that caused him to try to snap his bat over his knee in anger.
"We can't score two runs and expect to shut them down. It's a great offensive team, and we need to execute. I had some good chances today to bring people home, and I couldn't do it."
Fortunately for the Twins, two of their biggest problems -- fatigue and Sabathia --- won't be present for Friday's Game 2. Following an off-day Thursday, Minnesota will look to even the series and unleash a healthy dose of timely hitting on A.J. Burnett.
"We will just keep the same approach that we used to keep men on base," Brendan Harris said, "and hopefully just knock them in."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.