NEW YORK – Three batters in, and baseball’s best offense over the past two months of the regular season was rolling against Yankees righthander Luis Severino.
“We were all on the same page about coming out swinging against the guy on the mound,” outfielder Max Kepler said. “He gave us stuff to hit. We were sparking.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to last.”
After getting off to a fast start, the Twins offense fizzled just as quickly under the unrelenting power of the Yankees bullpen, along with its 0-for-6 effort with runners in scoring position. New York relievers bailed out Severino after he was knocked out of the game in the first inning — their 13 strikeouts of the Twins tied a postseason record for a bullpen.
But the Twins also blame themselves for not extending their early lead.
“We talked about being ready from the very first pitch,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Good teams respond to that, and that’s really tough to do. We could have really opened it up, I guess.”
Dozier led off the game by driving a 99-mph fastball by Severino over the left-field wall for his ninth leadoff home run of the season. Jorge Polanco drew a one-out walk, then Eddie Rosario hit a 1-1 Severino slider out to right as and the Twins led 3-0.
It was the dream start for a visiting team on baseball’s biggest stage — one that didn’t last long.
After the two homers, the Twins had runners on second and third with one out and were looking to pile on. But not only did they fail to score, they failed to touch the ball as Byron Buxton and Jason Castro went down swinging to end the first inning.
It did not take long for the Twins to regret wasting those opportunities. Didi Gregorius’ three-run homer tied the score in the bottom of the inning, then Brett Gardner broke the tie in the second with a solo home run.
The Twins had another great chance for a big inning in the third when the first two batters of the inning reached base then, with one out, Kepler walked to load the bases against reliever Chad Green.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Green with David Robertson, a Twins nemesis from his days with the White Sox.
Buxton grounded into a force play as a run scored to tie the score 4-4, but Castro dropped to a knee while striking out to end the inning.
Robertson proceeded to spend a career-high 3⅓ innings reminding the Twins of why they hated facing him. He left after his two-out walk put runners on second and third in the sixth inning and the Yankees ahead 7-4.
“It wasn’t just his curveball,” said first baseman Joe Mauer, who was 1-for-5 but grounded into a double play to strand two runners on base. “He threw me a pretty good slider too. He just finds ways to keep getting better.”
Righthander Tommy Kahnle entered the game and gave up a drive to Mauer into the left-field corner that Gardner hauled in to end the inning — and end the Twins’ last scoring threat. Robertson, in 42 career games against the Twins, has a ridiculous 1.39 ERA against them.
Mauer has a .275 batting average in 10 postseason games — but just one extra-base hit.
“The ball I hit down the left-field line I thought I hit pretty good,” Mauer said. “Maybe could have tied this thing up. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
La Velle E. Neal III covers the Twins and Major League Baseball for the Star Tribune.