NEW YORK – With a heavy mist swirling continuously and shrouding the lights, Yankee Stadium looked more like the setting for “Wuthering Heights” or “The Hound of the Baskervilles” than a baseball game Wednesday. But there was nothing classic about what transpired on this Bronx moor.
Minnesota’s misery extended to six consecutive and increasingly inevitable losses, this time 7-4 to their daily Yankee tormentors. Lance Lynn’s first game in the south Bronx spiraled away, starting with the very first batter he faced, and the Twins’ repeated attempts to produce a big inning of their own constantly fizzled for lack of a clutch hit.
New York has now beaten the Twins seven consecutive times, counting the wild-card game last October, and 12 times in their past 13 meetings in this ballpark. And the way the Yankees pull it off, night after night, is just as numbingly consistent as those numbers suggest.
Didi Gregorius, for instance, continues to outslug the far more heralded Judge-Stanton combo that surrounds him in the batting order. The Yankees shortstop sliced a third-inning fastball from Lynn just inside the right field foul pole, his ninth home run of the season. More astonishing: It’s the fifth consecutive game that Gregorius has victimized the Twins with a homer.
“The ball Didi hit, I threw it where I wanted to, and he made a good swing,” Lynn shrugged after allowing six runs, the third time in four starts he’s given up five or more. “He’s in that zone right now, where it’s like, even if you make a good pitch, he makes you pay, it seems like.”
That inning got worse in a hurry, though. Giancarlo Stanton singled, Gary Sanchez walked, and rookie Tyler Austin came to the plate. Lynn got two quick strikes on Austin, but on 2-2, left a fastball in the middle. Austin blasted it into the left field seats, breaking the tie — and Lynn’s disposition.
“With two outs, that can’t happen,” Lynn grumbled. “Solo homers, you can get away with. Three-run homers, you can’t.”
Especially when your own team isn’t hitting them. Miguel Sano crushed a 440-foot missile off the back wall of the Twins’ bullpen in the first inning, but that stands as the Twins’ lone home run in this Yankee bandbox, where the pinstriped home team has pelted 10 homers of their own.
Perhaps even more frustrating for the Twins is the sense that this was the night that New York could be had. The Yankees started righthander Sonny Gray, who has been just as much a mystery as Lynn — their ERAs are now an identical 7.71, matter of fact — and who seemed not to be fooling many hitters, either. Gray walked five Twins in 4 ⅔ innings, and allowed six other Twins to reach base. Only rarely did the Twins take advantage, though.
“Bases loaded, nobody out, we got one. Another situation late, a base hit would’ve tied the game,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But we couldn’t get the big hit. … It’s been tough for our pitching and tough for our offense.”
That’s hardly a surprise; the Twins have scored more than one run in an inning only three times since leaving Minnesota 10 days ago. But the frustration is palpable, and Logan Morrison knows he’s been a prime culprit. He came to the plate with three runners on in the fifth inning and popped up. He had another bases-loaded chance in the seventh and struck out.
“Guys did a great job of getting on. We’ve got to drive them in. We didn’t do that tonight,” Morrison said. “Get a base hit with the bases loaded, and we’ll get out of this funk. We’re not far off. We’ve just got to keep going.”
Well, maybe that’s the best news of all for the Twins. After Thursday, they get to keep going — home. Away from this rain- and wind-swept bog.