MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Escobar delivered a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning and Eddie Rosario drove in a pair of runs to help the Twins to a 4-2 win over the Yankees in the series opener on Monday night at Target Field.Minnesota took the lead with two eighth-inning
MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Escobar delivered a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning and Eddie Rosario drove in a pair of runs to help the Twins to a 4-2 win over the Yankees in the series opener on Monday night at Target Field.
Minnesota took the lead with two eighth-inning runs, spoiling Caleb Smith's Major League debut. Joe Mauer sparked the rally with a leadoff single just out of Aaron Judge's reach, a play with an 18-percent catch probability, and Miguel Sano followed with a single to left field. Escobar delivered what proved to be a game-winning single into left field, while Rosario provided insurance with an RBI double.
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"We found a way, had to scratch across a couple in the eighth there," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "Escobar did a nice job on an off-speed pitch. He can go down and get those, especially right-handed. Our bullpen preserved the lead, and we beat the rain. So we'll take it."
Twins left-hander Adalberto Mejia faced the minimum through three and was efficient before being lifted with one out in the sixth after having thrown 76 pitches. He left with the tying run at second base, but reliever Tyler Duffey got out of the jam. The lone run charged to Mejia came on back-to-back doubles from rookie Garrett Cooper and Austin Romine in the fifth.
Duffey later gave up an RBI double to Cooper in the seventh, part of a 3-for-4 performance for the Yankees' rookie.
"After getting that first hit [on Sunday], you feel like you can get comfortable in the box," Cooper said. "It was a matter of time. You get that first one out of the way and you can relax up there to do what you normally do."
Playing in his first career game at Target Field, Judge wowed the crowd of 27,566 not with his bat, but with his strong right arm. The AL Rookie of the Year front-runner threw out James Dozier at home as the Twins' second baseman tried to score on a sacrifice fly in the third. According to Statcast™, Judge's throw was 97.7 mph -- his hardest of the year -- and traveled 262 feet on one hop.
"Off the bat, I'm trying to first make the catch, then once I was able to get behind it, you try to give [catcher Austin] Romine a nice easy hop," Judge said. "He made a great tag on Dozier there. Dozier tried to slide around and get his hand in, but what a tag by Romine."
Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell went five innings in his first start of the season, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. Rosario brought home a run with an RBI double in the second, while Mitchell was charged with a run-scoring error in the third when he couldn't handle a throw while covering first base with two outs.
"I was there, I was on the bag, and it was off the end of my glove," Mitchell said. "I don't know if I looked away at the last second, but that's just a ball I need to catch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rogers escapes jam: The Yankees were in position to take the lead in the eighth after Clint Frazier hustled to second base for a leadoff double -- his second in three innings -- and Judge was intentionally walked. But left-hander Taylor Rogers got Matthew Holliday to ground into a double play before the Twins opted to walk Starlin Castro. The decision worked, as Didi Gregorius curiously bunted out to end the inning. Rogers got the win, improving to 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA.
"[Third baseman] Miguel Sano was playing back, so I felt if I put a perfect bunt down, we would have got the lead," Gregorius said. "It got stuck right there in front of home plate. It should have been a better bunt. Sano was playing way back, the pitcher falls off, and if he wants to get me out, he has to spin and throw."
Twins closer Brandon Kintzler then pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 26th save.
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Kepler, Adrianza save runs: Twins right fielder Max Kepler made a diving catch on a sinking liner from Castro in the fourth with two runners on to end the inning. Kepler had 2.9 seconds to cover 28 feet, giving it a catch percentage of 58 percent and making it a three-star play, per Statcast™.
The Yankees had another scoring opportunity in the sixth with Frazier at third and one out, causing the Twins to bring the infield in. Holliday scorched a grounder with an exit velocity of 101.6 mph, but shortstop Ehire Adrianza made a diving stop and threw to first to save a run from scoring. Starlin Castro then struck out to strand Frazier.
"Adrianza is a great shortstop with great hands and moves well," Mejia said through a translator. "As far as Kepler, he's just as good as the other two outfielders we have out there."
The Twins successfully challenged a play at first base in the fifth inning. Didi Gregorius was initially ruled safe, as first-base umpire Scott Barry believed Gregorius beat Mejia to first on a headfirst slide. After a review, the call was overturned and Gregorius was ruled out.
Yankees: Right-hander Luis Cessa will make his fourth start of the year Tuesday when the Yankees' series vs. the Twins continues at 8:10 p.m. ET. Cessa is filling in for Michael Pineda, who will undergo Tommy John surgery. Cessa lasted three turns in the rotation last month, going 0-3 with a 5.93 ERA.
Twins: Right-hander Bartolo Colon will make his Twins debut against the Yankees at 7:10 p.m. CT after signing a Minor League deal on July 7. Colon, who went 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA with the Braves before getting released, allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings on Friday with Triple-A Rochester.
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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and listen to his podcast.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.