Top of the 7th: Judge Lays Out Again
Aaron Judge made the defensive play of the game with a diving catch of Eddie Rosario’s line drive to right. Judge tracked it down and caught it with his glove outstretched to his left as he fell to the turf. The fans, who appreciate good defense as well as home runs, roared their approval.
With a runner on second and two outs, Judge saved a run, too. The Yankees only need six more outs to take Game 1.
Bottom of the 6th: LeMahieu and Gardner Respond
Before tonight, D.J. LeMahieu had played in five playoff games, but he just pounded his first postseason home run into the Twins bullpen in left-center off Minnesota right-hander Cody Stashak. It was a blast. That was the third time in the game that the Yankees came back to score in the bottom of an inning after the Twins had scored in the top half, and that can be particularly deflating for a club. It’s even more deflating when the pitcher gives up another homer, as Stashak did when Gardner crushed one into the second deck in right field. Guess Gardy’s arm doesn’t hurt, or if it does, a 7-4 lead will help soothe it.
Top of the 6th: Another Homer for the Twins
Adam Sandler was shown on the big screen, and he got almost as big a cheer as Judge did at the beginning of the game. Then the Twins cut into the Yankees lead when Sano homered off Kahnle, drilling a line drive to right field. The ball barely made it over the wall in the shortest part of the ballpark (in fact, just about the shortest part of any ballpark) and Sano had to wait as he rounded first base to make sure that Judge didn’t come down with the ball after the right fielder jumped for it. It’s a one-run game and the Twins have three more chances to tie it.
Bottom of the 5th: Torres With a Clutch Hit
The Yankees recaptured the lead by scoring two runs on a bases-loaded double by Gleyber Torres after getting into the Minnesota bullpen. Zack Littell replaced Berrios, and was not exactly effective. After Judge missed a mammoth home run by inches, soaring just to the left of the foul pole in left field, Little walked Judge and then hit Gardner in the right biceps with a 96 mile-per-hour fastball (it hit the fleshy part of his arm, but on a chilly night it had to sting).
That was all Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli needed to see, and he pulled Littell for Tyler Duffy, who struck out Encarnacion on a breaking ball, but walked Stanton to load the bases. Then Torres ripped a double down the third base line, off the glove off Sano and into foul territory in left. Judge and Gardner scored, then turned to Torres at second base to salute him.
Duffy stranded the two remaining runners by striking out Sanchez and Gregorius, but the damage had been done.
Top of the 5th: Paxton’s Night Is Done
The Yankees lost their lead when a little gamble failed to yield results. With two outs, Polanco singled in Arraez after a 9-pitch battle with Paxton. Polanco had homered off Paxton in the first inning, and the Yankees’ starter had already thrown 77 pitches by the time Polanco came back to the plate.
The Yankees’ plan may have been to have the switch-hitting Polanco bat right-handed against the lefty Paxton, and then, if necessary, bring in the right-handed Ottavino to face Cruz, which they eventually did.
But Polanco fouled off a series of breaking pitches before lining a knuckle curve into left-center field, scoring Arraez. After Ottavino walked Cruz, Tommy Kahnle came on and got Rosario to line out to Gardner in center.
Paxton’s night ends after four and two-thirds innings. He gave up three runs and five hits and struck out eight.
Bottom of the 4th: Berrios Comes Up Big
Solid inning of work by Berrios, who matches Paxton with a 1-2-3 inning, and only needs 12 pitches to do it. He got Gregorius to pop up to catcher Mitch Garver in foul territory, and Urshela hit a fly ball to center for the second out. He struck out LeMahieu on a breaking ball for a called third strike, and walked off with a big exhale. Impressive performance. As Paxton takes the mound, Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino starts warming up in the bullpen.
Top of the 4th: Paxton Ends It Quickly
After a long half-inning in the bottom of the third, Paxton quickly gets the Twins in order in the top of the fourth, which puts more pressure on Berrios, Minnesota’s starter. It would not be surprising if this Berrios was done after the fourth inning. He has already thrown 76 pitches, and that third inning was a strain – if only from verbally assaulting his glove at the end of it. As Berrios takes the mound to warm up, there is already movement in the Twins bullpen. It is starting to feel like a typical Yankees-Twins playoff game.
Bottom of the 3rd: Encarnacion Fuels Yankees Rally
The Yankees took the lead with three runs in the inning, Yankee Stadium has come to life. Edwin Encarnacion is playing in his first game since Sept. 12, but there is no rust. He roped another double to left to score LeMahieu, and is now 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles. Encarnacion, with his power, bat wiggle and laser focus, is an intimidating force at the plate in the postseason, similar to the way Gary Sheffield was, and he is a proven postseason slugger. He now has 15 R.B.I. in 27 postseason games.
The Yankees were able to draw even after the Twins could not convert a double play: Cron could not corral a low relay throw from Arraez, allowing two runs to score. The Twins had Zack Littell warming up in the pen during the long inning, but Berrios escaped more trouble by striking out Sanchez, then walked off the mound yelling into his glove.
Top of the 3rd: Cruz Homer Makes It 2-0
The Bomba Squad is at it again. Nelson Cruz slammed a home run to right field to add to the Twins’ lead. The Twins, like many teams, come into Yankee Stadium and shoot for that shallow right-field fence (it went right over the 314-foot sign). They even work on it in batting practice.
For Cruz, it was his 17th postseason home run. What a slugger; he’s had his ups and downs in the postseason, as Tyler Kepner of the Times detailed in this story. Good thing for the Yankees that Judge made a nice catch earlier in the inning, or the home run could have been more damaging. Judge showed his athleticism (and long glove) by running in and making a diving catch on Polanco’s bloop into shallow right.
Bottom of the 2nd: Berrios Shuts Down Yankees
Berrios’s fastball really looks sharp tonight, especially on one inside heater at 95 m.p.h. that he used to strike out Gleyber Torres. This inning he threw it inside and up, which is where he can be especially effective. He got Didi Gregorius with an elevated fastball on the outside corner at 94.
That was an important out, because Gregorius is a Twin killer. In 32 games against Minnesota, Gregorius has a .345 batting average with eight home runs, and in two games at Minnesota in July he went 8 for 10 with 10 runs batted in. Sano made another nice play to get Gio Urshela for the final out, and Cron made a nifty scoop.
Top of the 2nd: LeMahieu Error Goes Unpunished
James Paxton pitched around a bad error by D.J. LeMahieu, who dropped an easy pop up at first base that allowed C.J. Cron to reach base safely and put two runners on base with only one out. Call it the first indication of nerves, but Paxton took care of it by inducing a ground ball to the left side of the infield, and Gio Urshela made a nice scoop to initiate the double play. Marwin Gonzalez hit a one-out double in the inning.
Bottom of the 1st: Replay Review Denies Tying Run
Remember how the Yankees’ postseason ended last year, with an agonizingly close play at first base (you may recall Steve Pearce’s crazy stretch). Well, in a similar play, Giancarlo Stanton was thrown out at first for the final out of the inning after a great bare-handed pickup and throw by Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. Stanton, who hit a weak ground ball, was originally ruled safe, which would have scored the run from third base in Aaron Judge. But after a review, it was shown that the throw beat Stanton by a hair and Berrios got out of the inning unscathed, despite giving up a walk to Judge and a double to Edwin Encarnacion, who seems to be healthy. Encarnacion ripped a shot into the left field corner. This game seems tense already.
Top of the 1st: Jorge Polanco Leads Off With Homer
Polanco silenced the Yankee Stadium crowd with bases-empty home run to left field. What else would you expect from the two teams who hit the most home runs this year. Polanco slugged a 98 mile-per-hour fastball, down and in from lefty James Paxton, several rows into the seats. It was Polanco’s first home run in 24 at-bats at Yankee Stadium. Paxton also walked Nelson Cruz, but he struck out Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano to end the inning, and give Yankee fans a chance to cheer. Now it’s the Yankees turn to show some power against Jose Berrios. No one expects this game to remain at 1-0.
Pregame Story Lines
The Yankees’ lineup for Game 1 of the A.L.D.S. is unique. It is the first time Aaron Boone has written those names down together all season, largely because of the long list of injuries. The Yankees sent 30 players to the injured list his year, for 39 separate stints. “Yeah, its remarkable,” Boone said before the game. “I think we’ve had some good fortune here the last month.”
It’s chilly here at Yankee Stadium (56 degrees) and most fans have been standing since pregame introductions. The loudest applause was for C.C. Sabathia, but Aaron Judge came in a close second. The umpires for tonight’s game are Manny Gonzalez behind the plate and Todd Trichnor at first base, followed by Gary Cedarstrom (the crew chief), Lance Barksdale, with Eric Cooper in left field and Adrian Johnson in right.
It is the Yankees’ first playoff game since last year’s disappointing loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the division series, and it comes against a familiar playoff foe. The Yankees and the Twins have met five times in the postseason, beginning in 2003, and the Yankees have advanced each time, winning 13 of 15 games.
Both teams slug the twine out of the baseball. In a year in which baseballs flew out of stadiums at a mind-numbing pace (four teams surpassed the previous record of 267 home runs, set by the Yankees in 2018), these are the two biggest mashers in the history of the sport. Minnesota hit 307 homers to establish the new single-season record, and the Yankees were only one behind.
Back in July, the Yankees and the Twins played what might have been the best game of the year: A 10-inning, back-and-forth slugfest that ended with Aaron Hicks’s spectacular diving catch in center field.
Cool stat: The Yankees had the third-best home record in baseball at 57-24. But the Twins had the best road record at 55-26.
Check back here before first pitch for live coverage and commentary before and during Game 1.