The Bomba Squad might have edged the Bronx Bombers in their battle to become the all-time regular-season home run champions this year, 307-306, but the home team handed them a 10-4 loss in Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night at Yankee Stadium, continuing a long run of postseason dominance over the Twins.
First baseman DJ LeMahieu homered and drove in four runs to lead the Yankees, who have now won 11 consecutive playoff games against Minnesota, dating to 2004, their longest postseason winning streak against any single opponent. Minnesota has now lost an MLB record 14 straight playoff games.
The Twins outhomered the Yankees 3-2 on Friday night, but New York hung in there with timely hitting to take a 1-0 series lead.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score with a lot of guys on base. We did a really good job against their pitchers,” LeMahieu said. “It felt good to come through.”
The Yankees also got key hits from veteran designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and 22-year-old second baseman Gleyber Torres, who battled back from an 0-2 count to hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the fifth inning, after which the Yankees never looked back.
“That is a special thing about our team. We got I don’t how many games, but we start to lose and we finish to win — we are patient. We know what we got in our lineup,” Torres said. “Just be patient, waiting for the opportunity. We got a few opportunities, we take advantage of the mistakes and all the really good at-bats everybody takes. And we win the night.”
Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge offered his take on Torres’ performance.
“I’ve been seeing that all year from GT, especially with guys on base — he just finds a way to get the job done,” Judge said. “I was at third right there, and he smoked that one down the line … that was awesome. Great at-bat by him and just great poise. In a big situation like that, I could barely hear [third-base coach] Phil [Nevin] talking to me at third base — and to do that at 22, it’s impressive.”
Encarnacion, who went 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in his first game since Sept. 12 after suffering a left oblique injury, also preached patience as the recipe for success against Minnesota.
“We just stayed true to ourselves. We were patient and were able to control the strike zone, and that allowed us to come out with the victory,” he said. “It was really important for us to get that first win against a team that can hit a lot of home runs, but we can do that too. And even though things started slow for us, we were able to stay patient and come out with the victory.”
Teams that win Game 1 of a best-of-five postseason series have gone on to win the series 72% of the time (95-37).
The Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday, facing Twins rookie right-hander Randy Dobnak, who has had a meteoric rise after spending the past offseason as an Uber driver.
The chance to take a 2-0 series lead had the Yankees clubhouse buzzing, even after a game that lasted 4 hours, 15 minutes — the second-longest nine-inning postseason game in franchise history. The teams combined to use 13 pitchers.
“That’d be awesome,” said outfielder Brett Gardner, who added a solo homer of his own. “It’s nice to get this first one under our belt. We’ll take things one day at a time, but tomorrow, another must-win game for us.”
“First one’s the biggest game. The first one’s always the biggest game,” he said. “It sets the tone for the series. Especially getting it here at home and putting up 10 runs. That’s big. And it’s going to carry on into tomorrow. We have to just get ready for tomorrow’s game and keep it rolling.”