NEW YORK – This time, it might not be Yankee Stadium, or the pinstriped action heroes who play here. This time, it might just be the Twins.
Whatever the reason, the outcome was the same as ever: Yankees win, Twins lose, put another log on the bonfire. Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton homered off Jake Odorizzi, Didi Gregorius slashed a grand slam off Tyler Kinley, Tyler Austin connected against emergency pitcher Ryan LaMarre, and New York walloped the Twins 14-1 for the Yankees’ 10th victory in the teams’ past 11 meetings in this haunted house.
Yet if this never-competitive humdrum was a frustrating continuation of a trend, it seems unnecessary to hearken back to the days when Aaron Hicks was playing for the visitors instead of the home team. Losing in Yankee Stadium, the Twins are used to. Getting blown out, it happens, though this was the Twins’ most lopsided bloodbath against the Yankees since 2003. But appearing so overmatched at the plate, that’s relatively new and far more unexpected.
The Twins added six scant hits to their meager road-trip total, including back-to-back singles in the fifth inning by Jason Castro and Brian Dozier that produced their lone run. Other than that, they mostly flailed at Masahiro Tanaka’s ever-moving pitches, striking out five times and extending their road-trip skid to 8-for-47 with runners in scoring position.
The ugly trend: the Twins have played 62 innings since departing the Twin Cities, and in only two of them have they scored more than one run. That’s not particularly surprising, given how they have also managed to scatter their hits; they have strung three hits together in an inning only twice in six games, and only one of those “uprisings” included an extra-base hit.
“Guys are pressing a little bit, you can start to feel it,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Tanaka has a way of getting us to expand [the strike zone], as much as you try to gameplan. We still had numerous swings on pitches out of the zone to help him out.”
The Yankees never need the help, not with the Twins’ long history (and recent revival) of losing to them. New York holds a 51-21 advantage since 2008, plus a 13-2 postseason edge all-time. Blame Tanaka’s workmanlike effort, or Jake Odorizzi’s inability to finish off a couple of critical at-bats, if you like, but the Twins’ bats remain frozen, even as Minnesota’s turf finally thaws.
“It has been tough. We’ve tried to compete and stay with these games, but we’ve been playing from behind a lot. That can be trying if you do it day after day,” Molitor said. “We have faced a lot of good pitching … But you’ve got to try to find a way.”
Dozier remains the exception to this offensive malaise, having at least one hit in every game, and a streak of 24 games counting last season. That equals his career-best stretch from 2016, and it leaves him only one behind Brian Harper (1990) for the second-longest streak in Twins history. The longest: Ken Landreaux’s 31-game streak in 1980.
For the second start in a row, Odorizzi wasn’t particularly sharp, but perhaps things could have been different early on. After walking Brett Gardner to open the game, and striking out Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, Odorizzi got two quick strikes on Giancarlo Stanton. But four consecutive balls put Stanton on, and Gary Sanchez followed with a double to the center-field wall, scoring two runs and handing the Twins a deficit that proved insurmountable.
“A lot of self-inflicted damage by me tonight. Too many three-ball counts,” Odorizzi said. “Tonight is completely on me. I didn’t give us a chance to win.”
Neither did the bullpen, of course. The Yankees poured on nine runs — more than the Twins scored in three games here last season — in the seventh and eighth innings alone, forcing LaMarre to take the mound.