NEW YORK – Kyle Gibson flirted with a no-hitter, and it didn’t matter. The Twins finally took advantage of the short fences here, even out-homered the Yankees, and it made no difference. You get the feeling that New York could have worn ski boots and hit with rolled-up newspapers, and the outcome would have been the same.
This is Yankee Stadium. These are the Twins. By now, you know the ending.
Gary Sanchez crushed a 97 mph fastball from Fernando Rodney into the left field seats Thursday, a dramatic punctuation mark on the Twins’ road trip from hell. Sanchez’s three-run homer, the first walkoff blast of his career, gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory. The Twins lost in Yankee Stadium for the eighth consecutive game, counting their wild-card playoff defeat in October, and this one might be even more painful than that.
“The game,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, “can be a little cruel.”
Relentless, too, because the Twins come home without claiming a victory during a weekend at Tampa Bay and four lousy days in the south Bronx. That’s seven consecutive humbling losses, and while being swept by the Rays was annoying, dropping four in a row in this slaughterhouse just multiplied the pain.
“We had quite a few innings where we were playing pretty well,” Gibson said, trying to be positive. “It’s just kind of crazy sometimes, how it goes here.”
That’s one way to put it. “Inevitable,” is another, though the way this one fell apart seemed innocent enough.
Rodney, summoned to protect a 3-1 lead, induced a ground ball from Didi Gregorius, and third baseman Miguel Sano scooped it up. But his throw was low and sinking as it reached first baseman Logan Morrison, and it bounced into a camera well.
“He threw a sinker over there,” Molitor said, “and it looked like Morrison had [too much] trouble adjusting to the way the ball was diving to make the catch.”
Then Rodney got Giancarlo Stanton to tap a soft grounder toward third, and Sano had no play. Rather than two outs, the Yankees had two runners on, and there were few doubts about what might happen next.
It came in the form of a fastball that Rodney intended to be knee-high. The ball sailed belt-high instead, and its next stop was 381 feet away, about 10 rows back.
“I was trying to get a ground-ball double play,” said Rodney, the 41-year-old closer who has blown three consecutive save opportunities. “Threw the pitch a little bit high in the strike zone, that’s why he could use his hands. He’s got quick hands.”
Said Molitor: “We had trouble making plays that cost us some baserunners, and then Sanchez made us pay. I think [Rodney is] throwing the ball OK, but the results haven’t matched up there. … Just a little bit snakebit.”
It wasted a memorable performance by Gibson, who silenced a Yankees lineup that had made sausage of his fellow Twins starting pitchers. Gibson threw six sensational innings, striking out a career-high 10, and until Brett Gardner grounded a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth inning, didn’t give up a hit. Gibson then issued a walk to Aaron Judge, but he retired the red-hot Gregorius to get out of the inning.
It was an amazing turnaround for a New York lineup that had bashed 10 homers over the three previous days.
Powered by a two-run homer by Eduardo Escobar and a solo shot by Robbie Grossman, the Twins gave Gibson a 3-0 lead.
But that’s the same lead the Twins took, also on a pair of home runs, in the wild-card game last October. Remember?
Different season. Different players. Same team celebrating.