After off-day, Twins try to solve Yanks
Blackburn looks to put an end to NY's spell over Minnesota
NEW YORK -- Getting leads in the Bronx hasn't been a problem for the Minnesota Twins. Holding them has been another story.
For the fifth time in five games at Yankee Stadium this season, the Twins scored first. But after four regular-season games and a 7-2 loss in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Wednesday, they're still looking for their first win. To avoid staring down the barrel of an 0-2 hole in the best-of-five playoff set, Minnesota will need to find a way to change that pattern.
A 2-0 third-inning lead on Wednesday lasted all of three batters before Derek Jeter tied the game at 2 with a two-run shot to left off Brian Duensing. The Yankees added one run in the fourth and three more in the fifth to give themselves some breathing room.
"Our guys were into it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We were battling pretty good. We got the lead. I think the big thing is, you get a two-run lead quick, and as soon as you go back out, it's a 2-2 ballgame with a homer. That's a little deflating."
The Twins weren't the only team to waste leads against the Yankees this season. New York had 47 other come-from-behind wins this season, and 35 of those came at home.
"For us to come right back and get right back on the board, I think that was huge," Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said. "And then we took the lead and never looked back. I think that's been the attitude for us all year long. We've dealt with adversity. Tonight, we dealt with a little bit of it, and we came back with full vengeance."
In a four-game series in New York from May 15-18, the Twins drew first blood four times before squandering the lead each time. The first three of those losses ended in walk-off fashion, including two extra-inning affairs.
"It was an important inning for us," Jeter said. "It's always big when a team scores to try to come back and match what they did. But you never want to fall behind. I know we've had a lot of success here at the stadium when we've fallen behind. Ideally, you like to get out and score first."
The Twins will turn to Nick Blackburn on Friday night at 6:07 ET on TBS against A.J. Burnett in an effort to even the series at 1-1 before Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota.
Blackburn allowed four runs in 7 2/3 innings against New York on May 16. He wasted leads of 1-0 and 3-1 before taking a no-decision in the Yankees' eventual 6-4 win in 11 innings. If the Twins want to make this series interesting, they'll need Blackburn to take advantage of his run support.
As Gardenhire acknowledged on Wednesday, that won't be easy.
"Everyone's an All-Star," Gardenhire said of the Yankees' lineup. "One thing we've learned here, the more people you put on base, we keep talking about making mistakes and walking people. The more people that get on base, the more opportunities for crooked numbers."
Gardenhire may be onto something. In the five road games against the Yankees this season, the Twins have walked 22 batters.
Of course, the task of holding leads is made easier the larger they are. Including Wednesday, the Twins have scored only 27 runs in eight games against the Yankees this season. In two starts against Minnesota this year, Burnett allowed four runs in 13 innings. But he was also fortunate that number wasn't higher given the 10 walks he issued.
The Twins, who won a 12-inning tiebreaker game against the Tigers on Tuesday before flying to New York for Wednesday's ALDS opener, have an off-day on Thursday.
"I think a day off for the most part will be pretty nice," Gardenhire said. "Take a relaxing day and then come back and have some good energy and go from there."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.