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Archive for Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Twins’ twin killings send Yankees to defeat

Minnesota turns record-setting five double plays, Santana tosses seven shutout innings, Jones homers in 2-0 victory

October 6, 2004

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— Johan Santana and the Minnesota Twins' dazzling defense had the New York Yankees seeing double.

Santana and the Twins escaped trouble with the help of a record-setting five double plays, Jacque Jones homered in his first start since the death of his father, and the Twins beat the Yankees, 2-0, Tuesday night to win their eighth straight opener in a postseason series.

"I was able to throw the right pitch at the right time because I know my teammates can make some plays," Santana said. "Tonight we proved what the team, the Minnesota Twins, are all about."

Minnesota's Soul Patrol outfield twice denied the Yankees with jumping catches -- left fielder Shannon Stewart saved one run and possibly two on Ruben Sierra's shot in the second, and center fielder Torii Hunter pulled in an eighth-inning drive by Alex Rodriguez at the top of the wall.

Hunter also threw out Jorge Posada at the plate in the second to complete the second double play by the Twins, who set a record for twin killings in a nine-inning postseason game.

"That's our game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Brad Radke now starts for the AL Central champions tonight, trying to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which shifts to the noisy Metrodome in Minneapolis starting Friday.

New York, which lost the first game of all three postseason series it played last year, is in familiar position: The Yankees have dropped the first-round opener in three of the last four seasons -- winning the series each time, but losing to Anaheim two years ago after leading 1-0.

Santana, unbeaten in 16 starts since the All-Star break, allowed eight hits in seven innings, the most off him since May 23. Four of the Yankees' first six batters reached safely and 10 of the first 24, but Santana kept escaping.

"He pitched his heart out," Gardenhire said. "He was unbelievable tonight."

Juan Rincon pitched the eighth, and Joe Nathan finished for the save with the Twins' only 1-2-3 inning of the game. New York, shut out for the second straight time in postseason play, went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Minnesota second baseman Michael Cuddyer turns one of the Twins'
five double plays as New York's Bernie Williams slides into second.
The Twins set a record for most double plays in a nine-inning
postseason game Tuesday in New York.

Minnesota second baseman Michael Cuddyer turns one of the Twins' five double plays as New York's Bernie Williams slides into second. The Twins set a record for most double plays in a nine-inning postseason game Tuesday in New York.

"We had many opportunities," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Santana probably didn't have his best stuff tonight, but when he needed to get a groundball, he got it."

Jones, just back from California after making funeral arrangements for his father, homered off Mike Mussina in the sixth. Jones took a red-eye flight to rejoin the team Tuesday and intends to go back to California for the funeral Thursday.

"A lot of guys on the team expected to see him do something special tonight," Gardenhire said. "I think that's supposed to happen, he's supposed to hit a home run."

Jones' opposite-field drive to left was his first postseason homer -- he pumped his fist in the air when it cleared the wall just after he rounded first base, and as he crossed the plate he pointed skyward.

"I know he's excited," Jones said of his father, Hardy. "He's watching me like he always has, even when he was here with us."

The closest the AL East champs came to scoring was in the seventh -- after another of the long "God Bless America" renditions that Gardenhire dislikes. Sierra hit a drive past the left-field foul pole -- left-field umpire Jerry Crawford signaled a home run, but after a huddle by several umpires, the call was correctly reversed to foul, drawing boos from the sellout crowd of 55,749.

Mussina, the most dependable starter on the weakest Yankees' rotation in years, had been 20-2 against the Twins before losing in the playoffs last year and Aug. 18 at the Metrodome.

He allowed his first run in the third on an RBI single by Stewart, who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs against Mussina this summer in the pitcher's first start off the disabled list.

Minnesota had lost 20 of its previous 23 games against the Yankees, including last year's playoff series, and New York repeatedly appeared to be on the verge of breaking ahead in this one.

Bernie Williams took a called third strike on an offspeed pitch with two on in the first, the ninth pitch of his at-bat, and Rodriguez easily was caught stealing at third.

"It's a hard loss," Williams said.

Then in the second, after Posada and Hideki Matsui singled to start the inning, the outfield Gardenhire calls the Soul Patrol took over, with Stewart and Hunter saving Santana. Hunter thought Rodriguez's drive was helped by the wind.

"Either I was going to be knocked out, or I was going to catch it," said Hunter, who has won three straight Gold Gloves.

Three Yankees hit into 6-4-3 double plays -- Posada in the fourth, Derek Jeter in the fifth and Williams in the eighth.

"We hit the ball hard at some people," Jeter said.

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