NEW YORK - These Yankees, they sure know how to honor their old-time heroes. On Monday, they passed out bobbleheads in tribute to David Wells. On Tuesday, they cooked up one of CC Sabathia’s favorite meals: the Twins.
Sabathia, whose first victory over the Twins came while Tom Kelly was their manager, celebrated his own personal Turn Back the Clock Night by playing keep-away with his 90-miles-per-hour fastball and 80-mph slider. Minnesota collected only two hits and an unearned run off the 37-year-old lefthander in six innings, and lost its fifth consecutive game, 8-3 in Yankee Stadium.
“You certainly appreciate when a guy can make adjustments and continue to compete,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said his team lost for the 11th time in its past 12 Yankee Stadium games. “You’re just not going to get a fastball in a fastball count. You’ve got to know he’s trying to entice you. You talk about it before the game, and then they get out there and get overexcited, and he preys on the aggressiveness.”
Sabathia recorded his 20th career victory against the Twins, and it’s hard to imagine many of the other 19 being so stress-free. An Eduardo Escobar double in the first inning scored Miguel Sano when right fielder Aaron Judge bobbled the pickup, but Sabathia responded by simply putting the Twins to sleep. Sabathia, who hasn’t lost to the Twins since 2013 and is now 8-1 against them as a Yankee, faced 17 more Twins hitters, and only Escobar, who singled and then got thrown out trying to steal in the fourth inning, ever posed even a minor threat.
“The CC of old was power, 97 [mph] with a wipeout slider,” said Brian Dozier, whose 24-game hitting streak — third longest in Twins history — was snapped by a Sabathia-administered 0-for-4. “Throughout the years, he has gotten better and better at locating with movement. The past few years, it has always been sinker, slider, changeup, in any count. He did a good job of it [Tuesday] — moving it all over the place.”
That’s the sort of performance the Twins expected to see Tuesday, but by the wrong starting pitcher. Jose Berrios — who was 6 when Sabathia made his big-league debut with the Indians — suffered through his shortest outing since his last start in this house of Twins horrors, allowing runs in four of the five innings in which he pitched. As is the Yankees’ habit, several of those runs were loud and long: Gary Sanchez started the scoring with a home run to right field in the second, and Didi Gregorius ended Berrios’ night by blasting a two-run shot in the fifth just inside the right-field foul pole, marking the fourth consecutive game the shortstop has homered against the Twins.
“The two-seam pitches that I threw on the side of the corners, they weren’t swinging at those,” said Berrios, who hadn’t allowed a pair of homers in his past 13 starts. “So they were very careful at what they were swinging at, very selective. And [it was] good, from their part.”
Berrios even walked a pair of Yankees, notable for a pitcher with such pinpoint control (only one walk) this season.
The Yankees kept pouring on the offense, of course, matching Monday’s four home runs with four more. (The Twins, naturally, have hit none so far.) Judge finished a triple short of the cycle by crushing his second in two nights, this one off newly arrived Tyler Duffey, and Sanchez racked up his ninth career two-homer game by lifting a Duffey fastball four rows deep in right-center.
Yankees fans even got to boo a little bit, when wild-to-a-fault reliever Dellin Betances relieved Sabathia in the seventh. He walked Escobar to open the inning, then threw a pickoff throw past first baseman Neil Walker. Betances struck out Eddie Rosario, but Mitch Garber followed with a single to right field, with Escobar scoring when rookie second baseman Gleybar Torres couldn’t catch Sanchez’s attempt to nab Garber as he retreated to first. When Betances walked Logan Morrison, his night was done, and he left to a chorus of unhappiness.
But David Robertson quickly ended the unpleasantness, striking out Ehire Adrianza and retiring pinch hitter Joe Mauer on a tapper to the mound.
The Twins added another run in the eighth inning on doubles by Max Kepler and Escobar, notable because it was the first time since last Tuesday that they had strung together a pair of extra-base hits in the same inning. But the Twins never scored more than single runs, continuing a disheartening trend: In 81 innings of this road trip, they have managed more than one run only twice.
“We might be pressing a little bit too much. … We’ve got to get back to our basics of getting on base,” Dozier said. “Sometimes it rains. Sometimes you lose five in a row. The beautiful thing about it is, we play [Wednesday].”