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Yanks jab, jab, jab before showing power punch

@feinsand
October 5, 2019

NEW YORK -- Before the Yankees powered their way to a series-opening victory in the late innings Friday night, the offense jabbed the Twins early and often to set up the knockout punch. It was the Twins launching balls into the seats at Yankee Stadium in the early innings, connecting

NEW YORK -- Before the Yankees powered their way to a series-opening victory in the late innings Friday night, the offense jabbed the Twins early and often to set up the knockout punch.

It was the Twins launching balls into the seats at Yankee Stadium in the early innings, connecting on two home runs against starter James Paxton. The Yankees weren’t having the same success with the long ball, but they mounted an old-school rally in the third to pull themselves back in the game, then did it again in the fifth to seize control en route to a 10-4 victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

“I thought the guys, by and large, up and down the lineup, really made it tough on their pitchers because they stayed in the strike zone,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, clearly proud of his group of savages. “When you do that, you're able to have a night like tonight where you throw up -- we got 10, right? Ten runs. I think it was so difficult on them, and we were able to break through in a couple of big spots.”

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 4 NYY 10, MIN 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 5 NYY 8, MIN 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 7 NYY 5, MIN 1 Watch

New York was scoreless through the first two frames, but Yankees hitters made Twins starter José Berríos work for his outs, getting his pitch count to 48.

DJ LeMahieu, who dropped a routine popup at first base in the second inning, flared a single just out of second baseman Luis Arraez’s reach to open the inning. Then Aaron Judge rapped a base hit to center field, putting the tying runs on base.

One out later, Edwin Encarnacion laced a double to left, a ball that clocked in at 114.4 mph off the bat, the hardest-hit ball by the slugger since Statcast began tracking in 2015. LeMahieu scored on the play to cut the lead in half, bringing Giancarlo Stanton to the plate with runners at second and third and one out.

Stanton drew a walk to load the bases against a tiring Berríos, whose pitch count now stood at 70 after recording only seven outs.

“I thought we did a really good job today of getting on base, whether it's a walk or just finding a way to get on base,” LeMahieu said. “I just feel like we had more opportunities to score than they did.”

Gleyber Torres hit a ball to third that seemed like a surefire inning-ending double play, as Miguel Sanó fielded it and threw to second, where Arraez stepped on the bag for the second out of the inning. With Stanton bearing down on him (and appearing to pop up as the second baseman was making the turn), Arraez got the throw off to first, but C.J. Cron couldn’t handle the ball, which rolled into the Yankees dugout. Two runs scored on the play, which was ruled a two-base error by Cron, giving the Yankees their first lead of the night.

Berríos struck out Gary Sánchez to end the inning, though his pitch count soared to 76 through three innings. He was out of the game after four innings and 88 pitches, turning a 3-3 game over to the Twins’ bullpen.

“I thought our guys did a good job of controlling the zone tonight, seeing a lot of pitches, not trying to do too much,” center fielder Brett Gardner said. “Up and down the lineup, we did a real good job of getting Berríos out of there and getting into their bullpen.”

Zack Littell opened the fifth, but a walk and a hit batter promptly ended his night. In came Tyler Duffey, who fanned Encarnación before walking Stanton as the Yankees loaded the bases for the second time in three innings.

Torres didn’t need any help from the defense this time, lining a double over third base to plate a pair of runs for a 5-3 Yankees lead. The Yankees joined the power party with homers by LeMahieu and Gardner in the sixth, while LeMahieu iced the game with a three-run double in the seventh.

“That's how this team has been all year,” Encarnacion said. “Everybody contributes from the first hitter to the ninth. Everybody can do damage. ... We don't panic. We play nine innings."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.