The New York Yankees followed a familiar formula in winning their opening game of the playoffs. For the Minnesota Twins, it was all too recognizable.
The Yankees beat the Twins 6-4 last night in Minneapolis, scoring six runs over the final four innings to erase a three-run deficit.
It was the 49th time New York has come from behind to win this season, the most in Major League Baseball for the second straight year. When the Yankees swept Minnesota in the first round last season, they trailed in all three playoff games and outscored the Twins 9-4 from the sixth inning on.
“We just keep fighting,” said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, whose two-run, seventh-inning home run snapped a 4-4 tie. “That’s a great team over there and we’ve played a lot of tough games against them. We just get maybe one big hit, one big pitch. We’ve been battling and it’s worked out.”
The Yankees were shut down by pitcher Francisco Liriano for the first five innings at Target Field, where the Twins had an American League-best 53-28 record in their first season at their new $545 million ballpark.
The reigning World Series champions then struck for four runs in the sixth inning before Teixeira’s home run.
The Yankees outscored the Twins 6-1 over the final four innings, with New York relievers Boone Logan, David Robertson, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera holding Minnesota scoreless in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Sabathia Gets Win
Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia got the win after allowing four runs -- three earned -- in six innings.
Sabathia fell behind 3-0 after giving up a two-run homer to Michael Cuddyer in the second inning and another run in the third, when Orlando Hudson scored on a passed ball.
The Yankees, who went 0-9 against left-handed starting pitchers in September, were limited to two singles by Liriano, a lefty, over the first five innings.
Liriano faltered in the sixth, when Teixeira started the New York rally with a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Robinson Cano.
With two outs, Jorge Posada delivered a run-scoring single that just cleared the glove of Hudson at second base. Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple off the wall in right-center field that drove in Cano and Posada to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
“We got him with a couple pitches up in the zone, maybe he missed a few,” Teixeira said of Liriano. “A guy like him when he’s on, you’re not going to hit him and we didn’t the first few innings.”
The Twins tied it in the bottom of the sixth as Sabathia surrendered a double and three two-out walks, including one to rookie Danny Valencia on four pitches that forced in a run.
Sabathia escaped further damage by striking out J.J. Hardy with the bases loaded on his 111th pitch, his last of the game.
“He didn’t have his ‘A’ stuff, but he gave us a chance,” Posada, the Yankees’ catcher, told reporters.
Teixeira’s homer put the Yankees back in front in the seventh inning, as he pulled a hanging slider from Jesse Crain just inside the right-field foul pole.
From there, the Yankees went to the bullpen.
With two runners on base in the seventh, Robertson struck out Jim Thome -- whose 25 homers led Minnesota -- to end the inning. The Twins had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth, when Rivera came on to retire Denard Span on a ground ball to Jeter at shortstop.
Rivera also got the final three outs in the ninth for his 40th career postseason save, the final out coming after a blown call by the umpires gave the Twins a two-out single and brought the tying run to the plate.
Television replays showed outfielder Greg Golson caught the line drive just before it hit the ground, which should have ended the game. Rivera then got Thome to pop out to third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees, who came from behind in seven of their 11 postseason wins during last year’s title run, now turn to Andy Pettitte in Game 2 tonight against Minnesota’s Carl Pavano.