A trip to Minnesota might be exactly what the reeling Yankees need.
After a brutal seven-game homestand in which New York (32-29) was swept by rival Boston and lost five of seven, the opening night of its three-game series with AL Central bottom-dwelling Twins (24-36) offered a welcome respite to its recent struggles.
The Yankees can take a brief sigh of relief as their offense jolted awake for 14 hits, including a pair of ninth-inning home runs by Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar, and pushed past Minnesota, 8-4, on Tuesday night at Target Field.
It was the first win in an eight-game excursion that includes a weekend stop in Philadelphia and concludes with a three-game set against Toronto in Buffalo next week.
The Yankees have their own kind of advantage in Target Field, owning a 24-11 record in Minnesota’s home ballpark, the best of any American League team since the stadium opened in 2010. New York is also 24-8 against the Twins since 2015.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees and was the first time that they have scored more than five runs since a 7-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on May 20.
‘Pass the baton’
Before the game, Aaron Boone said it was up to the entire Yankees lineup to make it difficult on the opposing pitching staff and to have « faith and trust » in the guy behind them in the lineup.
That philosophy proved to be the difference when the Yankees took their decisive lead in the top of the eighth.
With the game tied 3-3, pinch-hitter Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar led off the inning with back-to-back singles through the opposite side of the infield and moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner, who also knocked a one-out sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth inning.
Then, it was just a matter of putting the ball in play with the speed of Tyler Wade pinch-running at third.
DJ LeMahieu hit a ground ball to second and Wade scored the go-ahead run as Jorge Polanco’s throw home skipped to the backstop. And Aaron Judge gave New York its 5-3 advantage with another RBI fielder’s choice to second.
« Sometimes it takes little things in a game to win a ballgame, » Boone said. « Tonight’s the kind of game where everyone kind of contributed in different ways. We scored eight runs, which is great. I thought if you look back at some of the at-bats, it probably even should have been more based on some of the balls hit. »
For once, it wasn’t the home run ball that gave the Yankees their lift. In the win, nine different Yankees combined to tally 14 hits.
It was one batter too many for Jordan Montgomery.
The Yankees lefty had weathered a difficult opening inning and started to locate his devastating curveball across the middle innings.
But after giving up a two-out single to Trevor Larnach and a mound visit from Boone in the bottom of the fifth, Montgomery hung a changeup and Rob Refsnyder belted an RBI double high off the center-field wall to tie the score at 3-3.
Early on, it had appeared that Montgomery might be headed toward one of his shortest outings of the season. It took the Yankees lefty 29 pitches to get out of the first and Boone had reinforcements up in the bullpen after the Twins collected three first-inning hits.
After giving up a one-out single to Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano poked an opposite-field single off the end of the bat on a full-count to right. The problems compounded when Ryan Jeffers used a nine-pitch at-bat to bloop a two-run double just inside the left-field line to give the Twins an early 2-0 lead.
But Montgomery rounded into form as his start wore on. He got his pitch count back in order with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth.
He ultimately did not factor into the decision, striking out six and giving up three earned runs on eight hits across 5.2 innings.
Make your own luck
Through four innings, the Yankees offense might have felt like it couldn’t catch a break.
New York was hitting the ball hard but had only two hits to show for it. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda was consistently working ahead in the count and registered 11 straight outs across the first four innings with a little help from his defense.
In the second inning, Gio Urshela sailed a fly ball into the right field corner and Kyle Garlick made a catch at full extension to prevent extra bases. Leading off the third inning, Andjuar ripped a sharp line drive to third but Willians Astudillo dove to his right to glove the opening out of the inning.
And with two runners on in the bottom of the fourth following a fielding error by Pineda, Gary Sanchez wrenched the third out of the frame right to Andrelton Simmons at shortstop.
But in the fifth inning, a little bit of patience worked in the Yankees’ favor. They loaded the bases as Andujar drew the teams’ first walk and Gardner and LeMahieu knocked back-to-back singles.
The Yankees’ opening two runs came on an eight-pitch walk by Aaron Judge that ran Pineda from the game and a wild pitch by reliever Luis Acala with two strikes against Gleyber Torres.