NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium has not been a kind place for the Twins in recent years. Friday night was just the latest chapter in what seems like a never-ending horror story.
The team that committed less than one error every two games prior to Friday made two in the first four innings, leading to three unearned runs.
The team that led the American League with an .822 OPS looked feeble at the plate for seven innings, managing just one run – an unearned run, at that – on two hits.
The team that had the best record in the Majors – the first time the Twins could make that claim since September 2010 – looked like anything but the league’s best.
What else should anyone have expected? When the Twins come to the Bronx, it doesn’t typically end well.
That was the case Friday, as the Yankees opened the three-game weekend series with a 6-3 victory, a final score that looked far closer than the game felt. Nelson Cruz’s two-run home run in the eighth gave the Twins a fighting chance in the ninth, but Aroldis Chapman finished them off, completing the Yankees’ eighth straight regular-season home win over Minnesota.
Including their American League Wild Card loss in 2017, the Twins have gone 1-14 at Yankee Stadium since the start of 2015. Since the Yankees moved into their new ballpark in 2009, the Twins are 9-26 in 35 regular-season games at Yankee Stadium, not to mention 0-4 in the postseason.
“That's a home-field advantage,” starter Kyle Gibson said. “I don't know what they're doing here, but it doesn't sound fair.”
From the errors to their lack of timely hitting (0-for-5 with runners in scoring position), the Twins didn’t do much to help their own cause. There was some chirping in the umpires’ direction from both teams, though as Gibson pointed out, “if both sides are yelling at you, then you are doing a good job.”
Gibson was quite open when pressed about his team’s futility in this ballpark, but manager Rocco Baldelli -- who, admittedly, hadn’t been here for any of the losing prior to Friday -- dismissed the idea that it was something his club carried with it to the field.
“I didn’t know that until you just mentioned it,” Baldelli said before the game when asked about the Twins’ ineffectiveness at Yankee Stadium. “I wasn’t even thinking about it, and truthfully, I’d probably like to keep it that way.”
Max Kepler, 1-9 in his first 10 career games here, insisted he had no idea that his Twins had struggled at the Stadium since he joined the club.
“I personally have a short-term memory, so I have no recollection of any series against any other team,” Kepler said before the game. “That’s how I try to keep it. Baseball is a game that if you let any of the past linger, it affects me. So I don’t know what happened last time.”
The first play of the game might have been a bad sign for the Twins, as Byron Buxton misplayed Brett Gardner’s looping liner to center field. Gardner reached third base on the error, scoring later in the inning.
“I was like, ‘What just happened?’” Buxton said. “I probably went back and watched the thing 20 times and I’m trying to still figure out what I did wrong.”
The Twins wasted some chances at the plate, too, stranding two runners in the second and two more in the third.
“Against a good team like this with good pitching, I think you have to take advantage of those opportunities,” Baldelli said.
C.J. Cron’s missed catch of a routine throw in the fourth sparked a two-run inning for New York, which had a 5-1 lead at the end of five innings and never looked back.
After yet another loss to the guys in pinstripes, Gibson and his teammates held their heads high and vowed to come back Saturday with a positive outlook.
“If you're letting the past affect the present, you're dwelling on the wrong thing,” Gibson said. “You're always looking to the next day.”
Regardless of what happens over the final two games of the series, the Twins’ record at Yankee Stadium will continue to look lopsided. One series can’t fix a disastrous decade, but if Minnesota can chip away at that record one game at a time, Gibson believes his team is good enough to emerge from this New York funk.
“You're never going from 1-14 to 14-14 in one year; it's going to take a couple of years to turn it around,” Gibson said. “I don't necessarily think it's anything that this team in particular can't play here. We've got so many young guys that have really probably only played here one or two times. I don't think that has much to do with it, but it is kind of weird.”
As poorly as the Twins have played at Yankee Stadium, the one-sided nature of the matchup hasn’t been limited to the Bronx. Since 2002, the Twins are just 33-84 in the regular season against the Yankees, while their postseason record is 2-13 (three ALDS losses and one Wild Card defeat).
“They've just had our number for the last decade and a half,” Gibson said.