Reporting from New York — Over the past two Octobers, the Minnesota Twins have become the personal postseason punching bag for the bullying Bronx Bombers, there only as a sparring partner warmup act for the rest of October.
On Saturday, the Yankees swept the Central champions out of the American League division series, this time by a 6-1 score in front of a record 50,840 boisterous fans at Yankee Stadium.
The defending champions and owners of 27 title trophies are baseball's first team to move into the league championship series, which opens Friday in either Texas or Tampa Bay.
"It has a lot to do with strength of our club and experience of our club," Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. "There's a lot of experience in that [clubhouse]. Our guys have been through a lot of games like that."
The Twins, who hit only .220 for the series, were outscored 17-7. Twins designed hitter Jim Thome hit .100 with no runs batted in, while Yankees designated hitters Marcus Thames and Lance Berkman hit .364 with two home runs and four RBIs.
"I wouldn't call it domination," said Gardenhire of the three games, although he acknowledged the record of two years would show otherwise. "No excuses, we just didn't get it done and we have to do some more searching to see how to get out of it."
For the first time in their last nine postseason games against the Twins, the Yankees didn't have to come from behind to win.
They scored early and often to back the strong pitching of Phil Hughes, who was starting his first postseason game.
Hughes gave up four hits in his seven innings and retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced.
Hughes got a one-run lead in the second inning on a triple by Robinson Cano and a single by Jorge Posada, then got another run in the third on a double by Nick Swisher and a single by Mark Teixeira.
The Yankees finished off Twins starter Brian Duensing in a three-run fourth, the big blow by Thames with Cano on base. Brett Gardner also had an RBI.
Hughes exited not long after Swisher's home run in the seventh made the Yankees' lead 6-0.
"I knew what the environment would be like," Hughes said. "I was trying to control my emotions. Once I got through the first inning, I was able to treat it like any other game."