The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers made home field a disadvantage, winning their first two playoff games on the road and leaving the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays on the brink of elimination.
Lance Berkman drove in two runs with a home run and a double to lead the Yankees to a 5-2 win in Minnesota and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five American League Division Series. Texas also took a two-game lead by winning 6-0 yesterday in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“We’ve got a big hill to climb,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected in the seventh inning, said in a news conference. “It’s very disappointing in front of our fans here to lose two ballgames.”
In the National League, Tim Lincecum pitched a two-hitter to lead the host San Francisco Giants to a 1-0 win against the Atlanta Braves in the opening game of their playoff series.
Lincecum had 14 strikeouts in his postseason debut, allowing only Omar Infante’s double to open the game and Brian McCann’s double in the seventh inning. Cody Ross had a run-scoring single in the fourth for the Giants.
“Everything just went where it was supposed to,” Lincecum said in a televised interview. “Things happened the way they should have.”
Lincecum, 26, had the most strikeouts in a postseason game since Roger Clemens had 15 for the Yankees in the 2000 AL Championship Series against the Seattle Mariners.
The other NL series resumes tonight with Philadelphia trying to take a 2-0 lead against the Cincinnati Reds, who are still looking for their first hit of the postseason after getting no-hit by Roy Halladay in the opener.
The Giants and Braves play Game 2 of their series tonight in San Francisco. The two AL series resume tomorrow in New York and Arlington, Texas, with the Yankees and Rangers each needing one more win to advance to the AL Championship Series.
The only team to win a best-of-five playoff series after losing the first two games at home was the 2001 Yankees.
Andy Pettitte picked up his 19th postseason win, extending his Major League Baseball record, as the Yankees rallied for the second straight game against the Twins.
Berkman, who was traded from the Houston Astros to the Yankees on July 31, hit a solo home run off former Yankee Carl Pavano in the fifth inning and snapped a 2-2 tie with a run-scoring double in the seventh at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“That’s why I wanted to come over here, was just the chance to play in these games,” Berkman said in a news conference. “I just want to be able to contribute and maybe help us win a few games here in October.”
Berkman drove in the go-ahead run one pitch after Pavano thought he had a strikeout on a fastball on the inside corner. After the hit, Gardenhire was ejected for arguing the call with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
Gardenhire’s ejection came hours after Rays manager Joe Maddon was thrown out of his team’s loss for arguing a similar two-strike call. They were the first managers ejected in the postseason since Atlanta’s Bobby Cox in 2005.
At Tropicana Field, C.J. Wilson and two relievers combined on a two-hit shutout for Texas, the only current major league franchise that hasn’t won a postseason series. Michael Young and Ian Kinsler hit home runs for the Rangers.
The Rays, who led the AL with 96 wins during the regular season, managed one run in losing the first two games of the series at home. The AL East champions, who were shut down by Cliff Lee in a 5-1 opening-game loss, now need to win three straight to extend their season.
“Cliff is a better version of me,” Wilson said in a news conference. “He throws a little bit harder, he’s a little taller, has a little bit smaller waist, so I try to follow his lead on a lot of stuff.”
With the Rangers leading 2-0 in the fifth inning, Rays reliever Chad Qualls replaced starting pitcher James Shields and gave up a three-run homer to Young. It came one pitch after umpires ruled Young checked his swing on a two-strike pitch. Maddon was ejected for disputing the call.
“I really thought he had been struck out,” Maddon said. “It’s really hard to yell from the dugout. Nobody can hear you, so I had to go out to the mound and make my point.”
The Rangers already have won twice as many games this postseason as in their previous 49 years, when they went 1-9 in the playoffs.