NEW YORK — Breaking down the American League wild card game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium:
Yankees 8, Twins 4: Yankees advance to the ALDS to face the Cleveland Indians in a best-of-five series starting Thursday.
The game: It looked like trouble for the Yankees from the start, when a leadoff home run by Brian Dozier and a two-run shot by Eddie Rosario chased New York starter Luis Severino with only one out in the top of the first. But a three-run homer from Didi Gregorius tied the game in the bottom of the frame and set the tone for a long, wild, and homer-heavy ballgame.
A solo homer from Brett Gardner in the bottom of the second gave the Yankees their first lead and helped run Twins starter Ervin Santana from the game after only two frames. Minnesota rallied to tie the game in the top of the third, but the Yankees took a lead again on an RBI single by Greg Bird in the bottom of the inning.
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The early exits for both starters turned the contest into a matchup between the Yankees’ deep and lauded relief corps and the Twins’ pedestrian bullpen. After Chad Green worked 2 1/3 innings in relief of Severino, David Robertson took over and pitched masterfully for 3 1/3 frames.
Minnesota manager Paul Molitor replaced Santana with Jose Berrios, making only the second relief appearance of his big-league career. Berrios allowed three runs over three innings, including a two-run homer by Aaron Judge in the bottom of the fourth that padded the Yankee lead.
New York tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh off Trevor Hildenberger.
State of the Yankees: The New York club will get only one day to recover before opening the ALDS against the Indians on Thursday, and manager Joe Girardi may need to do without Robertson and Green after their long outings in Tuesday’s contest.
Since Severino threw only 29 pitches in the game, there’s some chance the Yanks’ manager goes back to his young ace again for Game 1, but more likely he will choose one of veterans Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia to face the Indians’ Trevor Bauer. But the 37-year-old Sabathia threw as many as seven innings only once in the second half of the season, meaning he may not be the best choice to give the bullpen a rest. Gray, meanwhile, threw a six-run clunker in his final start of the regular season.
Scoring runs off the Indians’ excellent pitching staff, needless to say, should be a bit more difficult than doing so against the Twins. But encouraging performances from Judge, Gregorius, Bird, Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez in Tuesday night’s game suggests the New York team will head to Cleveland with its best foot forward.
Pivot point: Though Bird’s single gave the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish, it was Judge’s two-run homer in the fourth that put the game out of reach for Minnesota. The Rookie of the Year lock and MVP candidate revived his second half by hitting .311 with a 1.352 OPS in September and went 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBI in his first-ever postseason game.
Man of the moment: Robertson. The right-hander was utterly dominant after his return to the Yankees in a July trade with the White Sox and earned a win on Tuesday with the longest outing of his big-league career to date. His 3 1/3-inning outing allowed Girardi to avoid using Dellin Betances, meaning the club’s bullpen won’t be quite as taxed as it seemed likely to be after Severino couldn’t escape the first.
What you missed on TV: A raucous Yankee Stadium crowd sticking out the middle-inning slog to celebrate their team’s first ALDS berth since 2012. The crowd thinned a bit as the clock approached midnight, but it’s hard to blame the Bronx Faithful for trusting their team’s bullpen by this point.
Gallery: AL wild card game between Yankees, Twins