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Twins Burn Out Yankees in Clutch

Sloppy New Yorkers can't get the big hits and Minnesota uses five pitchers for a 3-1 victory in the opener.

October 01, 2003|Dom Amore | Hartford Courant

NEW YORK — The operative word is "magnified."

The brand of baseball employed by the Minnesota Twins, called "small ball" in the regular season, grows in stature now. Fundamentals of the game, called "the little things" in the regular season, take on added importance.

The Twins did all the little things right on the big stage and defeated the New York Yankees, 3-1, before 56,292 Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five American League division series.

Under the microscope of the postseason, the Twins look like a dangerous team, while the warts and flaws the Yankees usually hide with magic and home runs have been exposed.

"We've been playing baseball pretty good," Twin Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Yankees, significant favorites in this series, did not. Bernie Williams, taking the wrong path to the ball, watched Torii Hunter's routine single skip to the wall for a triple, and after Alfonso Soriano threw wildly on the relay, two runs had scored.

The Twins hustled their other run home with aggressive baserunning.

"It was unfortunate," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said, "but you have to make plays, obviously, when you play in the postseason, because they are magnified."

The Twins' bullpen, stressed by the early departure of starter Johan Santana because of a leg injury, ate up the last five innings in small bites. Rick Reed, J.C. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado pieced it together for Gardenhire.

The Yankees had runners on base in every inning except the eighth but went one for 10 with runners in scoring position. When their bats came to life in the ninth inning, Shannon Stewart made a spectacular catch in left, robbing Hideki Matsui of an extra-base hit and limiting the rally.

"In the regular season, everybody's concerned with home runs and highlights," said Yankee captain Derek Jeter, who reached base three times but was never driven home. "Now, it's the little things everyone is watching."

Mike Mussina, who had won 20 of 22 starts against the Twins, kept the Yankees in the game for seven innings but took the loss. The official scorer credited the win to Hawkins, who overpowered the Yankees in the seventh and eighth innings.

The Yankees, having lost Game 1 at home, must win Thursday or go to Minneapolis, where the Twins will have the eardrum-rattling decibel level of the Metrodome to their advantage, down 0-2. The Yankees swept four games at Minnesota in April to increase their winning streak against the Twins in regular season games to 13. But, as is apparent to all now, this is not April.

"There's pressure to win every game," Jeter said. "Whether it's Game 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Today is done, we can't do anything about it."

The Yankees couldn't do anything in the clutch Tuesday. Jason Giambi struck out to strand two runners in the third. Hawkins got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh, getting pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra to hit into a fielder's choice on a grounder to the mound, then striking out Soriano and Nick Johnson.

"In the past, we used to get the bounces and the luck," Yankee catcher Jorge Posada said. "We've got to find a way to get our luck back."

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HOW THEY SCORED

THIRD INNING: Twins 1, Yankees 0--Pierzynski grounded out, second baseman Soriano to first baseman Johnson. Guzman infield single to second. Stewart singled to left, Guzman to third. Rivas hit a sacrifice fly to center fielder Williams, Guzman scored. Mientkiewicz grounded out, pitcher Mussina to first baseman Johnson. One run, two hits, no errors, one left on.

SIXTH INNING: Twins 3, Yankees 0--LeCroy singled to left. Jones struck out. Hunter tripled to center, LeCroy scored. On Soriano's error, Hunter scored. Koskie doubled to left. Koskie was caught stealing, catcher Posada to third baseman Boone, Koskie out. Pierzynski walked on a full count. Guzman struck out. Two runs, three hits, one error, one left on.

NINTH INNING: Twins 3, Yankees 1--Guardado pitching. Williams singled to right. Matsui flied out to left fielder Stewart. Boone doubled to left, Williams to third. Sierra flied out to right fielder Jones. Soriano infield single to short, Williams scored, Boone to third. Johnson grounded out, third baseman Koskie to first baseman Mientkiewicz. One run, three hits, no errors, two left on.

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