NEW YORK – The Twins outlasted CC Sabathia on Tuesday. A two-run homer by Miguel Sano in the seventh inning put them ahead and turned the normally raucous Yankee Stadium into a library.
But the Twins had to weave their way through the final innings with a fatigued bullpen. Because of buttons pushed in recent days, Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham had to face Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded.
Major advantage, A-Rod.
Rodriguez clobbered a Graham fastball to straightaway center field for a grand slam. Yankee Stadium quaked. And the Twins were stunned once again and lost 8-4.
Casey Fien, Kevin Jepsen and closer Glen Perkins had pitched in each of the previous three games and were unavailable. Perkins, it was learned after the game, headed back to the Twin Cities to have his neck examined.
So Twins manager Paul Molitor turned to rookies Ryan O’Rourke and Graham.
“We had nine outs to get and three runs to protect,” Molitor said. “It didn’t take long.”
The Twins scored three runs in the seventh, two on Sano’s homer, to take a 4-1 lead. O’Rourke, who had gotten the final two outs of the sixth, returned to the mound for the seventh.
Chase Headley singled. Brendan Ryan walked. Jacoby Ellsbury flew out. But Brett Gardner, a lefthanded hitter O’Rourke really needs to get out, walked to load the bases and prompted Molitor out of the dugout to bring in Graham.
“We knew it was our turn up,” O’Rourke said. “We had to go in there and do a job. Every game tends to be close. We have to go in there and get guys out. I just didn’t do it tonight.”
Graham missed with a slider to Rodriguez and had to come in with a fastball. While the 1-0 pitch was near the knees, it was not on the corner. And Rodriguez put a swing on it.
It was Rodriguez’s 25th grand slam of his career, the most all-time. Two of those have come against the Twins. Graham said it felt like a normal situation when he prepared to face Rodriguez and didn’t care about his grand slam history.
“I’m trying to go after the hitter at that point,” Graham said of his encounter with Rodriguez. “I think my stuff is going to beat his stuff. And he beat me.”
The Yankees, 4-1 against the Twins this season, added three more runs in the eighth. The Twins have lost 12 of their past 14 road games.
Sabathia kept the Twins bats silent early. Trevor Plouffe, the 14th Twin to face Sabathia, was their first baserunner when he worked a walk in the fifth. Two batters later, Eduardo Escobar blooped a single to right to end the no-hit run.
The Twins finally had an opening. Kurt Suzuki lined a double into the left-field corner, scoring Plouffe to tie the score at 1-1. Third base coach Gene Glynn gambled and waved Escobar home, but Didi Gregorius’ relay throw beat him easily.
Sano’s homer, off a changeup, put the Twins up 3-1. He’s the third player in the history of new Yankee Stadium to homer in his first two games in the park.
Shane Robinson added an RBI single to make it 4-1. The Twins had the Yankees where they wanted them.
And then they didn’t.
For a second straight night.
“Everyone knew we were going to count on some less experienced people to try to close the game out,” Molitor said. “You take that for what it is. It didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean we didn’t play a good game. It didn’t mean we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”