MINNEAPOLIS -- This was "a good character win" for the Yankees, in Alex Rodriguez's eyes, as his team hit a pair of late homers that allowed them to withstand a shaky outing by closer Aroldis Chapman. It remains to be seen if this is the series that will finally vault
MINNEAPOLIS -- This was "a good character win" for the Yankees, in Alex Rodriguez's eyes, as his team hit a pair of late homers that allowed them to withstand a shaky outing by closer Aroldis Chapman. It remains to be seen if this is the series that will finally vault them over .500 for good.
The Yankees returned to the break-even mark on Saturday with their third straight victory over the Twins, posting a 7-6 victory that put them back in the middle of the road after 68 games. They've seen their past win streaks followed by dips, but Rodriguez wants to believe this time will be different.
"I think it's important for us to stay consistent," Rodriguez said. "The one thing that for us is very important as an offense is to get runs early. The numbers when we get ahead early, when we score four runs; we're 27-5 when we score four or more runs. As an offense, that should be a goal for us every night."
Rodriguez clearly has done his research; he was thumping a similar objective of five-runs-or-better earlier in the season. That didn't materialize, but maybe that's because they hadn't seen the Twins yet. Rodriguez hit his 695th career homer off Ricky Nolasco in the seventh inning, halving New York's deficit to 4-2 at the time.
"That's a huge two-run homer right there," Carlos Beltran said. "At that point, we're down by four and all of a sudden Alex hits that ball and we narrow the gap. Alex is a guy that can change the game with one swing of the bat. I know he's battling and grinding but when he figures it out, and I know he will, it's going to be fun to have him in the middle of the lineup."
One inning later, Beltran pounced on an outer-half changeup from Kevin Jepsen and slugged his 18th homer, a game-tying, two-run shot to left field.
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"You want to feel that you can always come back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You want to have a team that can grind out at-bats. We have guys that have been around a long time. They've seen relievers and it's not the first time they've seen certain guys. Your hope is that you can come back every day."
The rally took Michael Pineda off the hook after he permitted four runs (three earned) over 5 1/3 innings, despite tying a season high with nine strikeouts. Anthony Swarzak worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Andrew Miller put up a zero in the eighth.
An unorthodox ninth-inning rally included a bunt single by Didi Gregorius that helped set up Jacoby Ellsbury's go-ahead, two-run single off Ryan Pressly.
"You're really just looking to hit a ball hard," Ellsbury said. "If it's in the infield, hopefully it gets through or it's deep enough for a sac fly. Once I got to 3-2, I was thinking he was going to come with an off-speed pitch. It ended up being a fastball and I stayed short enough to hit a ball in play."
Brett Gardner followed with a sacrifice fly, which turned out to be a crucial run as Chapman served up back-to-back home runs to Eduardo Escobar and pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki in the home half before closing out his 13th save.
"He's a guy that we expect to be perfect, but at the end of the day he's going to have his days where he's going to give up a run here and there," Beltran said. "The most important thing is that he was able to close it and we were able to win this one."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.