MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Didi Gregorius and the New York Yankees started this road trip in Minnesota and turned Target Field into a private batting cage.
Next stop for this hitting machine? Fenway Park.
Didi Gregorius drove in three more runs with two of New York’s nine extra-base hits, and the Yankees clobbered Minnesota’s pitching staff again in a 10-7 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.
Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnación each hit solo home runs for the Yankees, who outscored the Twins 30-27 to win this back-and-forth three-game series with a total of 48 hits, half of them for extra bases. Torres became just the second player in Yankees history with consecutive 20-homer seasons at age 22 or younger, joining Hall of Fame member Joe DiMaggio.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s description of the series? “Hitterish.”
After ravaging Twins relievers during a split of the first two games, the Yankees turned on All-Star starter Jake Odorizzi (11-5) this time. He finished four innings, with 10 hits, nine runs and two walks allowed.
Gregorius, who went 8 for 10 with 10 RBIs in his two starts, hit an RBI double to ignite a four-run second. Mike Tauchman added a two-run triple before the inning was over. Gregorius tacked on a two-run triple in the fourth and finished with three hits , one day after going 5 for 5 with seven RBIs.
“Every single game was a battle, from pitch number one to the end,” Hicks said.
Eddie Rosario hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz later went deep for the Twins, who also got a big boost for their beleaguered bullpen from rookie Devin Smeltzer’s five innings and one run allowed that helped them stay within striking distance.
But after forcing the exit by Yankees starter J.A. Happ with only one out in their three-run fourth, the Twins tailed off against the bullpen. Despite totaling 12 home runs out of 32 hits themselves in the series, they emerged with just one win and watched their once-cushy lead in the AL Central over surging Cleveland drop to two games, the smallest since May 5.
“Our guys all know we can compete and beat all these teams,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There were nights where we weren’t playing our best baseball, maybe weren’t clicking in every way, but we were still going out there and competing well.”
Nestor Cortes Jr. (4-0) picked up the victory after being recalled from Triple-A, Tommy Kahnle stranded two runners when he entered to finish the seventh inning, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a hitless ninth for his 26th save.
The Yankees, meanwhile, took a 10-game lead in the AL East race to rival Boston to finish this trip.
“Every time you get a chance to play them, you get a chance to bury them,” Gregorius said. “That’s all you want to do, so keep expanding the lead.”
After the Twins turned a triple play and hit five home runs to hang on for an 8-6 victory on Monday, the Yankees responded with a 14-12 win on Tuesday that was even more of a rollercoaster ride featuring erasure of a six-run deficit after five and go-ahead rallies in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings before Hicks ended the five-hour game with a diving catch in center field with the bases loaded.
According to STATS research, that was just the second major league game in the last 40 years with blown leads in the top of the eighth, bottom of the eighth, top of the ninth and bottom of the ninth. The other was on July 17, 2000, between Colorado and Oakland.
Producing an encore in the series finale that matched the entertainment value of the first two games was going to be awfully difficult, but the sellout crowd of 40,127 — the largest since the 2016 home opener — still saw plenty of action. And another Yankees win.
“If you don’t go out there and continually bring it to them, it’s probably not going to work out well for you,” Baldelli said.
Happ has logged only 33 innings over his last seven starts, with 45 hits and 12 walks allowed and a 6.82 ERA. Odorizzi’s ERA has spiked from 1.92 to 3.84 over his last seven turns.
Encarnación’s homer off Smeltzer in the ninth came after he painfully fouled a ball off the top of his left foot. He was grimacing as he gingerly jogged around the bases for his 17th home run at Target Field. It marked his eighth straight year with at least 30 home runs and he’s tied with Salvador Pérez for the most by a visiting player in the 10-year history of the ballpark.
Yankees: With Gary Sánchez going on the injured list with a strained left groin , the Yankees were also without LF Brett Gardner for the fourth straight game because of a sore left knee, still favoring precaution. Tauchman, conveniently, is 8 for 15 with seven runs and five RBIs over those four games in his place.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton was given another day on the injured list, his 10th straight game missed following concussion-like symptoms and then wisdom teeth being pulled, but Baldelli hinted that he could be activated on Thursday. Buxton probably could’ve caught both triples that Jake Cave didn’t in CF.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-5, 4.00 ERA) pitches the opener of the four-game series in Boston on Thursday night. RHP Rick Porcello (8-7, 5.61 ERA) takes the mound for the Red Sox, who are in third place, one game behind Tampa Bay.
Twins: RHP Jose Berriós (8-5, 2.96 ERA) starts a four-game series in Chicago on Thursday night, with RHP Lucas Giolito (11-4, 3.12 ERA) taking the mound for the White Sox in a matchup of AL All-Stars.
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