NEW YORK – The Twins spent most of the past week watching their hitters spray line drives around Target Field, their starters pitch deep into ballgames, their defense catch everything put in play and their relievers lock down victories.
But after winning six of seven games on their homestand, on Friday they arrived at Yankee Stadium — their pouch of ouch.
For evidence, look no further than the Yankees’ first batter. Byron Buxton, the Platinum Glove-winning Twins center fielder, flat-out missed Brett Gardner’s sinking liner, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach third and eventually score the first run of the game. That was the first of three unearned runs for New York in a 6-3 victory over the Twins, their ninth consecutive loss at Yankee Stadium.
“I probably went back and watched the thing 20 times, and I’m trying to still figure out what I did wrong,” Buxton said after his 10th career error and first since Aug. 18, 2017. “It’s just one of those things where it’s probably something really, really small that I didn’t do.”
Buxton wasn’t the only one at fault Friday. Kyle Gibson couldn’t handle a patchwork Yankees lineup that has been decimated by injuries. The Twins offense got only one run out of two bases-loaded situations, then went five innings without a hit.
The Twins entered Friday with the best record in baseball but fired a dud in the opener of their six-game road trip. And this game looked all too familiar by this team in this ballpark.
Even with a roster fortified with veterans and a long-ball offense, and facing a team with 13 players on the injured list, the Twins lost for the 14th time in their past 15 games in the Bronx. That stretch includes a loss in the 2017 AL wild-card game. Including the postseason, the Twins are 9-30 at the new Yankee Stadium.
“Every now and then it just seems like a couple bounces seem like they don’t go our way,” said Gibson, winless in his past seven starts vs. the Yankees. “It’s part of being here. They play well at home, and it is a fun place to play. Especially when they are winning. Just kind of how it goes sometimes.”
Gardner scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. In the second inning, Gibson needed 13 pitches in to strike out the .185-hitting Mike Tauchman. Cameron Maybin then singled, No. 9 hitter Tyler Wade was hit by a pitch and Luke Voit delivered a run-scoring single.
New York starter James Paxton lasted only three innings before leaving because of a sore left knee — as if the Yankees needed any more injuries. The Twins loaded the bases against him in the second and third innings but scored only once, on C.J. Cron’s sacrifice fly. That’s asking for trouble.
The Yankees kept piling on, scoring two more unearned runs in the fourth. That inning started with Cron dropping Jonathan Schoop’s throw at first for an error; a single, a sacrifice, a wild pitch and an RBI groundout made it 4-1. Gary Sanchez added two home runs, one off Gibson and one off Mike Morin, making his Twins debut.
Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the eighth, but that was one of only four Twins hits.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli did not know of the Yankees’ stranglehold in the series until a national reporter informed him before the game. Then he saw his team put on an out-of-character performance.
“We’ll go home and realize that maybe we didn’t play our best game tonight,” Baldelli said, “but the one thing this team has shown is that we come back, prepare for the next game well, go out and do our best tomorrow and see what happens.”
Buxton was headed back to the hotel for something else.
“I’m about to go back to my room,” he said, “and pick apart that play.”