YANKEES 8, TWINS 7 (10 INNINGS)
On a night where the team was literally battered, bruised and besieged leave it to a former New York Yankees shortstop to provide the Yankees with the mistake that handed them a hard-fought 10-inning walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
Chase Headley’s hard-hit bases-loaded grounder clanked off Eduardo Nunez’s glove just enough to allow Greg Bird to score the winning run as New York came back from a 7-5 deficit to beat Minnesota on what was Frank Sinatra Night.
And in true Sinatra-like fashion, the Yankees did their way.
Facing Twins closer Glen Perkins, Bird opened the inning with a line-drive double in the gap in right-center. The only reason Bird was in the game is starting first baseman Mark Teixeira was forced to leave the game in the sixth with a bruised right leg.
Brian McCann, who had driven in five runs on the night with a two-out three-run homer and a two-out two-run single earlier, delivered a double off the glove of left-fielder Eddie Rosario, which should have scored Bird easily with the winning run.
However, Bird went back to tag up at second base and was unable to score because Rosario got the ball in quickly.
With Bird at third and McCann on second, the Twins intentionally walked Carlos Beltran, who had tied the game up with one out in the sixth inning with a two-run home run. Twins manager Paul Molitor then replaced right-fielder Torii Hunter with infielder Eduardo Escobar and positioned him to give the Twins five infielders.
Headley then slapped a 1-2 pitch on two hops to Nunez at shortstop. But Nunez – who basically punched his ticket out of New York because of chronic fielding issues – allowed the ball to carom off his glove.
Nunez inexplicably threw to first base to retire Headley after Bird already had scored the decisive run.
I want to wake up in a city
That doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap
The Yankees’ walk-off victory allowed them to extend their lead in the American League East over the idle Toronto Blue Jays to a full game.
But getting from Point A (the game) to Point B (the victory) proved extremely difficult despite the fact that McCann provided rookie right-hander Bryan Mitchell an early 3-0 lead on a night that CC Sabathia was scheduled to pitch but didn’t because Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to give all his starters an extra day of rest.
So the Yankees opened the first with Jacoby Ellsbury reaching on a single and Alex Rodriguez drew a one-out walk. One out later, McCann launched a 0-2 fastball off right-hander Kyle Gibson deep into the right-field bleachers for his 21st home run of the season.
The Twins got one of the runs back in the second inning when Rosario and Kurt Suzuki hit a pair of two-out singles and Nunez capped it by lining a wicked line drive that struck Mitchell in the face and the ball caromed into center-field to score Rosario.
Mitchell immediately fell to the ground with blood pouring profusely from his nose. Mitchell was able to walk off the mound with a towel covering his face with what later was diagnosed as a nasal fracture.
Girardi called upon rookie right-hander Caleb Cotham to replace Mitchell and Cotham was able to strike out Aaron Hicks to end the inning with Suzuki on third and Nunez on second after a stolen base.
But the Twins took advantage of the inexperienced Cotham in the third inning. Brian Dozier led off with a single and, one out later, Miguel Sano stroked his eighth home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.
Forced to leave Cotham in because the Yankees were a man short in the bullpen with Mitchell starting, Trevor Plouffe exploited it by singling to right and Hunter reached on a fielder’s choice in which shortstop Didi Gregorius mishandled his ground ball for an error and it allowed Plouffe to reach third.
Rosario followed with an RBI single to center and the Twins took a 4-3 lead.
But the Yankees reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the frame after Ellsbury singled, Brett Gardner walked and Rodriguez hit a hard-hit grounder that caromed past Plouffe into left-field for an error. Ellsbury, however, was thrown out at home plate on a throw from Rosario. It was his 11th outfield assist of the season.
Because the Twins were running the bases every chance they got in the game, Rodriguez decided to steal a base on a befuddled Gibson. That proved to be a very smart move.
One out later, McCann dumped a bloop single to right that allowed both Gardner and Rodriguez to score. The Yankees reclaimed the lead 5-4.
But it did not last for even one hitter in the fourth. The Twins again exploited Cotham when Hicks led off with his eighth home run of the season into the Yankees bullpen in right-field.
Two batters later Cotham left in favor of left-hander Chasen Shreve after being charged with four runs on six hits in just two innings.
But the normally reliable Shreve was ambushed in the fifth inning when Plouffe led off by cracking a 1-2 pitch that also landed in the Yankees bullpen for his 18th home run of the season.
Plouffe extended the Twins’ lead to 7-5 with two out in the sixth. After Joe Mauer and Sano reached on two-out singles off left-hander Justin Wilson, Plouffe followed with an RBI single to left.
But the seesaw game swung back again in the sixth inning after Teixeira battled Gibson to draw an 12-pitch walk. Bird pinch-ran for Teixeira after the veteran first baseman fouled a pitch off his right leg earlier in the at-bat.
Molitor replaced Gibson with left-hander Brian Duensing. After Duensing struck out McCann, Beltran tied it 7-7 with his 13th home run of the season and his third homer in his past four games.
Gibson, who entered the contest with an ERA over 10.00 in four career starts against the Yankees, was charged with six runs on four hits and three walks and struck out two in five-plus innings.
The game remained tied despite the fact the Yankees loaded the bases with one out against first left-hander Ryan O’Rourke and then right-hander Casey Fien. The Yankees had McCann and Beltran up with the bases loaded but McCann was retired by Fien on a weak infield popup and Beltran struck out swinging.
But the Yankees bullpen trio of right-hander Adam Warren (seventh), right-hander Dellin Betances (seventh, eighth and ninth) and left-hander Andrew Miller (10th) held the Twins to one hit and one walk and struck out five in the final four innings to set up the walk-off victory in the 10th.
Miller (1-2) was credited with his first victory of the season in relief. Perkins (1-4) took the loss.
The Yankees improved their season record to 65-52. The Twins dropped to 59-59.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
- McCann had himself a MVP-like night after going 3-for-5 with a single, double, home run, a run scored and five RBIs. The five RBIs tied a career high, which he has done six times. You think that was good? Well, how about his work behind the plate? McCann threw out three Twins base-runners to become the first Yankees catcher to do that since Jose Molina did it 2011 against the Boston Red Sox. McCann threw out Dozier in the fourth, Hunter in the fifth and Nunez in the seventh.
- Beltran’s hot streak in August continued in a big way on Monday. He was only 1-for-4 but that one was a game-tying home run. This season eight of Beltran’s 13 home runs have either tied or given the Yankees a lead. Beltran is batting .317 with five homers and nine RBIs halfway through the month. It appears Beltran is tired of being platooned with Chris Young and he now has become a must-start every day.
- Let’s give a shout out to Brian Cashman for having the foresight to release “Eduardo Scissorhands” (Nunez) on April Fool’s Day of 2014. That seems appropriate since Nunez committed 42 errors in 270 games with the Yankees between 2010 and 2013. Now he is the Twins’ problem and his shaky fielding handed the Yankees a victory. “It’s all my fault,” Nunez told reporters. “The pitcher did his job. I have to do my job and make the play. It’s all on my back. This game. I think I lost the game.” Well said, Scissorhands!
- I have no idea what the Yankees see in Cotham, 27. He looked tentative on the mound and he seemed absolutely afraid to throw a pitch in the strike zone. It might get hitters to swing out of the zone at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but not in Major League Baseball. There is a strong possibility that Cotham will be shipped back to Scranton now that he is sporting a 7.36 ERA in just two games.
- Rodriguez’s struggles continue and they are getting worse. He was 0-for-4 with a walk, which means he is now in a 3-for-37 (.081) skid since Aug. 6. His season average has sunk 19 points from .281 to .262 and he struck out 10 times in those 37 at-bats. He was rested on Saturday so that is not an excuse. Perhaps he needs to be lowered in the order. That is what got him going early in the season.
X-rays of Mitchell indicated a small nasal fracture but the team is also going to monitor the 24-year-old right-hander for concussion symptoms. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game. . . . Precautionary X-rays taken on Teixeira’s right leg just above his knee were negative. Teixeira, 35, was unable to put any pressure on the leg after the game and he is listed as day-to-day. . . . As part of a salute to the late Frank Sinatra on Monday, his son Frank Jr. sang the national anthem before the game and the first 18,000 fans (21 and over) were given free Frank Sinatra music download cards.
A battered and tired Yankee team will resume its three-game home series with Twins on Tuesday.
Sabathia (4-9, 5.23) will pitch for the Yankees with that extra day of rest. Despite giving up two runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, the Yankees gave him just one run of support and he took the loss.
Veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.70 ERA) will pitch for the Twins. He held Texas Rangers to one run on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts in seven innings of a 11-1 victory on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.