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Archive for Sunday, October 10, 2004

Yankees oust Twins, earn date with Sox

October 10, 2004

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— For Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees, Minnesota proved to be little more than a speed bump, barely slowing them down on their race to meet the Red Sox.

A big home run by Ruben Sierra, a timely 11th-inning hit by Rodriguez and the Yankees beat the Twins, 6-5, Saturday to win the first-round playoff series in four games -- and a chance to play Boston for the AL pennant.

"This is what everybody drew up in spring training, and now everybody gets to see what it's all about," Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield said. "When Schilling went to the Red Sox and when A-Rod came here, that's what everybody wanted to see."

The AL championship series opens Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, with Curt Schilling likely to start for the Red Sox against Mike Mussina.

Sierra's three-run homer in the eighth inning tied it, then Rodriguez doubled, alertly stole third base and scored in the 11th on Kyle Lohse's wild pitch.

Rodriguez hit .421 in the series, best among the Yankees, with three doubles and a home run.

"What makes you a complete player and a winning player is being asked to do the little things," Rodriguez said. "You can't play big ball all the time."

Minnesota led 5-1 behind ace Johan Santana before another New York rally. The Yankees came from behind for all three wins in this series after setting a major-league record with 61 comeback victories during the regular season. Nine of those were from deficits of four runs or more.

"I've never been around so many guys that believe in themselves," Rodriguez said. "We have so many guys with big, big hearts."

Said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: "They find a way. They've just got so many great hitters."

For the second straight year, New York lost the first-round opener to Minnesota, then won three straight and advanced to the AL championship series.

The Yankees won that matchup with Red Sox last season on Aaron Boone's homer in the 11th inning of Game 7, then lost 4-2 to Florida in the World Series.

Boston spent the offseason competing with the Yankees for Rodriguez and others, then went 11-8 against the Yankees this year, finishing three games back in the AL East but winning the wild card. The Red Sox then swept Anaheim in the first round.

Winning pitcher Mariano Rivera retired six straight batters to finish the game.

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