NEW YORK – New postseason, same old story for the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.
DJ LeMahieu homered and drove in four runs, Gleyber Torres snapped a tie with a two-run double and the Yankees extended their October mastery of Minnesota with a 10-4 victory Friday night in the best-of-five AL Division Series opener.
Aaron Judge made two diving catches in right field as the AL East champions handed Minnesota its major-league-record 14th consecutive playoff defeat — 11 of them to the Yankees since 2004.
Judge’s second grab thwarted a potential rally and left grateful reliever Zack Britton with both hands on his head to end the top of the seventh inning, when the Twins were still within striking distance.
“Huge,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s so good out there.”
Former Mariner James Paxton started for the Yankees. In his first postseason game, he gave up three runs on five hits (two of them homers) with eight strikeouts and a walk. He went 42/3 innings and threw 86 pitches, 50 for strikes.
Minnesota, the AL Central champion for the first time in nine years, was hurt by eight walks and hasn’t won a playoff game since Johan Santana beat Hall of Famer Mike Mussina 2-0 in the 2004 ALDS opener at Yankee Stadium. Boston lost 13 straight postseason games, from 1986-95.
Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano homered for Minnesota.
“We had some good swings, we had our moments,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Just by chance, there was no one on base when we popped a few balls over the fence.”
Rookie reliever Zack Littell, a former Yankees farmhand who was traded to the Twins, took the loss after a brief and messy outing. With the score tied in the fifth, he walked Judge, threw a wild pitch and plunked Brett Gardner.
Giancarlo Stanton drew the second of his three walks to load the bases, bringing up the 22-year-old Torres. He fought back from 0-2 to a full count against Tyler Duffey and pulled a sharp one-hopper that deflected off the glove of a diving Sano behind third base, giving New York a 5-3 lead.
Astros’ Verlander dominates Rays
HOUSTON – Asked what went wrong for his Tampa Bay Rays, manager Kevin Cash invented a word.
“We got Verlandered,” Cash said.
Justin Verlander looked every bit the October ace, Jose Altuve polished his postseason résumé and the Houston Astros kept rolling, beating the Rays 6-2 to open their AL Division Series.
The Astros, who won 107 games for the best record in the majors, began their quest for a second World Series title in three years against a Rays team that downed Oakland 5-1 in the wild-card game this week.
Verlander kept up his dominant run this year when he posted an MLB-most 21 victories and fanned 300, allowing just a soft single in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight and improved to 8-0 in 12 career ALDS appearances — he is 14-7 overall in playoffs.
He laughed when told Cash used his performance to turn his name into a verb.
“It’s a pretty great compliment,” Verlander said. “I don’t know what else to say, other than that.”
Verlander ended his day by striking out the side in the seventh inning, pounding his fist into his glove as he walked off the mound.