Yanks punch ALCS ticket with sweep of Twins

October 8th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Yankees prepared in the dark prior to Monday’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series, their collection of high-tech equipment having drained a wonky circuit breaker in the visiting clubhouse at Target Field. Four hours later, they turned the lights out on the Twins’ season.

cracked his first postseason home run and contributed two deft defensive plays, hurled four scoreless innings before turning the game over to the bullpen and the Yankees once again popped the corks after advancing to the American League Championship Series with a 5-1 victory, completing a series sweep of Minnesota.

“Tonight we’ll enjoy the celebration and everything,” Torres said, a river of Budweiser traveling down the collar of his T-shirt. “But the next day we’ll go to the ballpark, focusing on what we want. We’ll be ready for everything, ready for the next series and try to focus on doing the same thing – winning games.”

The Twins’ front office had spoken about it being “time to slay the dragon” of the Yankees’ postseason dominance, but 27 mostly lopsided innings revealed only that the fire-breathing monster is alive and well. Manager Aaron Boone and his club will now await the winner of the other ALDS between the Astros and Rays, with Houston leading that best-of-five series, 2-1. 

“They played such a clean game,” Boone said of his club. “They made so many plays in big spots. I really thought the Twins brought it tonight. They made it difficult. They had traffic, it seemed like, all night. Our guys just kept making big pitches when they needed to, and big defensive plays.”

By completing the sweep, the Yankees dispatched the Twins to a Major League-record 16th consecutive postseason loss -- 13 of which have come against New York, dating to 2004. Though Minnesota led the Majors with a record-setting 307 homers during the regular season, one more than the Yankees, the “Bomba Squad” was largely kept in their ballpark by the Bombers’ staff.

That was not the case for Torres, who slugged Jake Odorizzi’s first-pitch cutter over the left-field wall for a second-inning blast that put New York on top. At 22 years and 298 days old, Torres became the youngest Yankees player to hit a postseason home run since Derek Jeter’s memorable fan-aided blast in Game 1 of the 1996 AL Championship Series against the Orioles.

"He's always got a smile on his face," said. "No situation is too big. I'll see him in the box and he'll give us a little smile in the dugout, like he knows he's going to go up there and do his job. He's just a special individual."

New York squeezed four scoreless innings out of Severino, though the right-hander’s performance was not nearly as clean as his line would indicate.

Torres started a key double play in the first inning, and Severino pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second inning, retiring Miguel Sanó, Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Cave on a sky-high popup and a pair of strikeouts. That prompted Severino to bellow as he departed the mound, and it would not be his last exuberant display of the evening.

“That situation set the tone for the rest of the game,” Severino said. “I think that was the chance for the Twins to score, and I’m happy that I could throw good pitches enough to get out of that inning.”

In the third, laced an opposite-field RBI single to pad the hurler’s wallet with another run, and Severino pitched around a pair of hits to keep the Twins off the scoreboard. Severino’s 83rd and final pitch in the fourth was ripped by Gonzalez, but snared behind first base on a stellar play by .

Boone clapped his hands, satisfied with Severino’s performance and eager to turn the game over to a bullpen that the second-year manager believes could be the key to the 28th World Series championship in franchise history.

“It wasn’t perfect,” Boone said, “but the guys kept making pitches.”

Like Lucy cruelly yanking the football away from an approaching Charlie Brown, the Twins were permitted moments of hope before the Bombers dashed them. Torres made a deft fifth-inning play behind to retire Rosario and Judge used his 6-foot-7 frame to track down Sano’s deep drive to right field with an excellent grab in the sixth.

“The team who hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues,” Judge said. “To shut them down to seven runs [in the ALDS]? That’s unheard of.”

continued to erase memories of an underwhelming September with a seventh-inning RBI single, providing insurance. Rosario hit an eighth-inning homer off , who exited later that inning with a sore right ankle, but ’s ninth-inning homer restored the three-run lead.

Gregorius added a stellar diving catch with two men on base in the ninth, helping extinguish a potential rally.

“It’s always the next man up,” Gregorius said. “You play for these big moments.”

The Yankees planned to spend the evening in Minneapolis, then jet home on Wednesday. Assuming their electricity is operational, they’ll turn their attention to the Tampa Bay-Houston ALDS matchup.

Game 1 of the ALCS will be on Saturday; the Yankees will host it if they face Tampa Bay, and will be on the road if their opponent is Houston. All ALCS games will air on FOX/FS1, and game times are to be determined.

"I'm so happy. So happy,” Torres said. “We played really good baseball. But tonight was already played, so now we'll focus on the next series."