NEW YORK — The first game between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees on Monday offered a glimpse how things might unfold in a potential playoff game.
The Yankees improved their standing in the wild-card race while the Twins lost some ground in the standings to their nearest pursuer.
The teams will get together again Tuesday night after opening the series with a tense game, won 2-1 by New York.
“I think we’ve kind of been in that mode for a while,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Knowing where we both are in the standings, yes, it does feel a little bit different.”
New York improved to 13-5 in its past 18 games. Aaron Judge hit his 44th homer of the season, Todd Frazier lifted the tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, and Aroldis Chapman nailed down the final five outs after entering with the bases loaded in the eighth.
The Yankees opened a five-game lead on the Twins for the first wild card and remained three games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East. They improved their positioning for the first wild-card spot despite going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and watching Dellin Betances create a mess in the eighth.
“I think we match up well against anybody, to be honest,” said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who had three hits and two stolen bases. “I like the way we’ve been playing recently, and whether it be the Twins or the Royals or the Red Sox or whoever we’ve been playing recently, I like the chances we have.”
The Twins are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot. While Minnesota will be attempting to win for the eighth time in 13 games on Tuesday, the Angels will be hosting the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians.
“I don’t like to speculate too much that we might be back here,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “It could happen. I would look at that as its own game, regardless of what happens. … But what I’m looking forward to is seeing how these guys respond. It’s always a little different here. I’ve played here in October, and it just has a different feel.”
Minnesota struck out 13 times and managed only four hits Monday after homering four times and scoring 13 runs Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“From the start, everybody was swinging at bad pitches,” Minnesota right fielder Eddie Rosario said of the Monday performance. “Everybody was free-swinging.”
The Twins will try to correct their approach at the plate against CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA), who will attempt to remain unbeaten since coming off the disabled list.
Since returning from a knee injury Aug. 19, Sabathia is 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA.
He was originally slated to pitch Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees pushed him back two days to keep his right knee off the artificial turf in Toronto this weekend.
Including starts after immediately being activated off the disabled list, Sabathia is making his 69th start with six days or more rest. In those outings, he is 28-19 with a 4.17 ERA, and this season he is 4-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven such starts.
The left-hander last pitched on Sept. 11 against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field when he allowed one run on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, coming within two outs of qualifying for his 235th win.
Sabathia is 18-9 with a 3.16 ERA in 37 career starts against Minnesota. Since joining the Yankees in 2009, he is 6-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 37 starts against the Twins, though he has not faced them this season.
Most of Minnesota’s hitters have limited experience against Sabathia, but Joe Mauer is 8-for-49 (.163) with 20 strikeouts in their matchups, including a 3-for-29 mark since 2009.
After scratching out two runs Monday against Ervin Santana, the Yankees will attempt to generate offense against Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84 ERA). The right-hander won on July 19 in his only career appearance against the Yankees, allowing one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 6-1 home victory.
Berrios is winless in his past three starts, going 0-1 with a 4.07 ERA this month.
He last pitched Thursday, when he allowed one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays. It was the 16th time he allowed three earned runs or fewer and the eighth time Berrios allowed one earned run or fewer.
Copyright © 2017
TTWN Media Networks LLC