Derek Jeter got a big hit, just as he did in Octobers past at the famed ballpark across the street. CC Sabathia joined in the postseason fun. Even Alex Rodriguez broke out of his playoff rut.
It was like old times in the first postseason game at the new Yankee Stadium in New York, with the Yankees beating the tired Minnesota Twins, 7-2, in the opener of their American League Division Series on Wednesday.
“It felt just like the old place,” Jeter said. “We couldn’t have drawn it up any better for us.”
After Jeter’s third-inning homer off loser Brian Duensing drew New York even at 2, Nick Swisher pulled a go-ahead double down the left-field line in the fourth that scored Robinson Cano from first as left fielder Delmon Young and shortstop Orlando Cabrera made a pair of poor throws.
Rodriguez had gone 0-for-29 in the postseason with runners on base dating to Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series before chasing Duensing with an RBI single that made it 4-2 in the fifth.
From there the Yankees breezed to their first postseason win in two years.
On a night with sustained winds blowing to right-center at 20 mph, with gusts up to 43 mph, Hideki Matsui followed with a two-run homer into Monument Park on left-hander Francisco Liriano’s fourth pitch. The Yankees celebrated like kids, just as the Twins did when they beat Detroit in an AL Central tiebreaker at the Metrodome on Tuesday night.
“Crazy. Nuts,” Swisher said. “Everyone knows I’m a little hyper. Probably the hardest thing was keeping myself under control.”
Rodriguez added another run-scoring single in the seventh against Jon Rauch following an error by first baseman Michael Cuddyer, with A-Rod’s drive hitting halfway up the right-field wall. New York scored five runs with two outs.
“It definitely felt good,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no questions the numbers aren’t good, but you’ve got to come out and play.”
Wearing long sleeves on the blustery night, Sabathia got past a 22-pitch first inning and found a sharp cutter in his Yankees postseason debut.
“This is what you come here for,” Sabathia said. “It was electric tonight.”
Despite retiring the side in order just twice, Sabathia allowed one earned run and eight hits in 62/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none.
“He got nasty. He was deceiving,” Minnesota’s Denard Span said.
Sabathia, who twice got crossed up with catcher Jorge Posada, left with two on after 113 pitches. He tipped his cap to a ballpark-record crowd of 49,464 that included actress Kate Hudson (Rodriguez’s reported girlfriend) and rapper Jay-Z.
Jeter’s home run had inspired the big lefty.
“The place got loud,” Sabathia said. “Him starting out the game with a single and then tying the score up right back, it just made me want to go out there and get three quick outs.”
Minnesota didn’t arrive at its hotel until nearly 4 a.m. (EDT) and appeared to lack the energy that propelled the Twins during a 17-4 finish. The Twins struck out 12 times.
“Guys are tired,” AL batting champ Joe Mauer said before adding, “this isn’t the time of year for that, to be worrying about that.”
After a day off, the series resumes Friday night, when A.J. Burnett pitches for the Yankees against Nick Blackburn. New York will be trying to get off to its first 2-0 postseason start since 1999 against Texas.
“We all need to go home, get a good night’s rest,” said Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, who will start Game 3. “We’re going to be a little fresher, I’m sure, on Friday.”
Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the third when Cabrera singled with two outs, Mauer doubled, Cuddyer hit an RBI single and Posada crossed up with Sabathia and allowed a run-scoring passed ball.
Jeter tied the score with a drive about 10 feet fair down the left-field line. With his 18th postseason home run, he tied Yankees stars Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for third on the career list behind Manny Ramirez (28) and Bernie Williams (22), another former New York star
Casey Stengel hit the first postseason home run across the street at original Yankee Stadium, an inside-the-park homer that gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win in the 1923 World Series opener.
“You get a two-run lead quick, and as soon as you go back out, it’s a 2-2 ballgame with a homer,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s a little deflating.”
Jeter was on base four times with two hits and two walks, and scored three runs.
“It’s pretty fitting what he did tonight,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, managing his first postseason game since replacing Joe Torre two years ago. “That’s Derek Jeter at this time of the year.”
A left-hander who pitched for the U.S. in the Olympics last year, Duensing had never even been to New York before and made nine starts during his rookie season.
“I wish that we could go hire a right-hander to come in and eat them all up,” Gardenhire said. “But we have a few left-handers that have to pitch. That’s just the way it is.”
At Phillies 5, Rockies 1: Cliff Lee pitched like an ace instead of a postseason rookie, tossing a six-hitter as Philadelphia began its World Series title defense with a victory over Colorado.
Raul Ibañez had two hits and two RBI, and Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth drove in runs with key extra-base hits off 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez.
Lee, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, struck out five and had no walks in his first career playoff start. He retired 16 straight batters at one point until Garrett Atkins hit a wind-blown double in the seventh. Lee lost his shutout when Troy Tulowitzki doubled in a run with two outs in the ninth.
Game 2 of the best-of-five National League Division Series is set for today with Cole Hamels, last year’s World Series and NLCS MVP, on the mound for the Phillies against Colorado’s Aaron Cook.
Some questioned manager Charlie Manuel’s decision to give Lee the ball over the playoff-tested Hamels for the first game, but Lee made his manager look brilliant with a masterful performance.
On a day when swirling winds made flyballs an adventure, Lee ignored the elements and shut down the NL’s second-highest scoring offense. Avoiding the adventures that come with the Phillies bullpen, Lee mixed a deceptive fastball with off-speed pitches, had pinpoint accuracy and threw 113 pitches.
The hard-throwing Jimenez was equally impressive against the league’s No. 1-scoring offense for four innings, but ran out of gas in the fifth. He got chased with no outs in the sixth after allowing nine hits and five runs in five-plus innings.