Tanaka's Playoff Dominance, Didi's Grand Slam Lift Yankees To 2-0 Lead In ALDS

Tanaka joined Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers in history to give up two runs or less in their first six postseason starts


“Throttle down,” he said.

Didi Gregorius hooked a slump-busting grand slam during a seven-run third inning and the Yankees pummeled the Minnesota Twins again, cruising to an 8-2 victory Saturday for a 2-0 lead in their AL Division Series.

Uber driver-turned-rookie big leaguer Randy Dobnak struggled in an unexpected start, and the Twins lost their record 15th consecutive postseason game, including 12 straight against the Yankees. The latter is the longest postseason skid for one club against another in major league history, topping Boston’s dominance over the Angels from 1986-2008. Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since Johan Santana bested the Yankees in their 2004 Division Series opener — exactly 15 years earlier.

“Our guys know that we can turn it around,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Coaches and players on both sides have downplayed that history, most of which predates current rosters. It’s all too familiar for fans in Minnesota, where the teams will play Monday’s Game 3 in the best-of-five series.

“We’ll have all kinds of fire power ready to go Monday,” Boone said.

Gregorius’ shot blew Game 2 wide open while New York batted around. The Yankee shortstop staggered after connecting for the first time since Sept. 10, looping his bat from one hand to another and mashing on bubble gum while he watched the ball fly. Gregorius, set to become a free agent after the season, batted .194 during September and was 0-for-3 in Game 1.

“I expect this from Didi,” Boone said. “Just when you think you’ve got him down, he’s got a big swing in him.”

Finally featuring nearly all its stars after placing 30 players on the injured list during the regular season, New York has grinded away at Twins pitching. The Yankees worked eight walks for the second straight game, and Aaron Judge led the way with two hits and two free passes.

New York’s relentless offense sent 12 men to the plate in the third inning, forcing Minnesota to use three pitchers just to get through the frame.

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka pitched one-run ball for five innings for the win, striking out seven and handing off to New York’s fearsome bullpen after 83 pitches. Tanaka’s career postseason ERA climbed to 1.54, still second lowest by a New York starter with a minimum of four starts behind Monte Pearson’s 1.01.

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the second inning of game two of the American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on October 05, 2019. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

“I actually don’t get too caught up on being good in the postseason and all that,” Tanaka said through a translator. “Come to think about it, I think it’s still a small sample. My thing is just go out there and be the best that you can be, compete.”

Tanaka joined Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers in history to give up two runs or less in their first six postseason starts — continuing his run as the Yankees’ most trusted arm in the playoffs.

Yankee Stadium rocked early after Friday’s blowout. Fans in left field shouted “Uber!” at Dobnak while he warmed in the bullpen, and Judge encouraged more noise from the bleachers before first pitch.

Gregorius took a curtain call while fans chanted his name after the slam, the 12th in New York’s postseason history. The Bronx Bombers connected for only one homer Saturday after driving 306 of them during the regular season, one behind the Bomba Squad Twins for the major league record.

Tanaka left with a seven-run lead, but Boone ran out top middlemen Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino to guide the game into the late innings. Tyler Lyons and Jonathan Loaisiga closed up with an inning each. Yankees pitchers gave up six hits, one walk and struck out 13, leaving the Twins with a .197 batting average in the two games.

TRAINER’S ROOM:

Twins: Baldelli had no concerns about Arráez after the second baseman sprained his right ankle last weekend and had a busy night Friday. Arráez doubled twice.

Yankees: Boone confirmed severak players will be keeping ready at the team’s complex in Tampa, Florida, through the postseason, including OF Clint Frazier, 1B Mike Ford, and LHP Jordan Montgomery.

UP NEXT:

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50) makes his seventh postseason start and his fourth appearance of an injury-marred season. Severino was sharp in three September regular-season starts after missing nearly the entire season with shoulder and lat issues.

Twins: All-Star Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51) will start for Minnesota after being passed over in Game 2. He said he wasn’t bothered by the decision.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

 

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