NEW YORK – Just as they hoped, the Twins learned a few valuable facts about the Yankees this week, ahead of their potential playoff showdown in two weeks.
Wait, is “we can’t beat them here” a useful tip?
No, the Twins insist that’s not how they feel after the Yankees finished off a sweep of their three-game playoff rehearsal with an 11-3 trashing Wednesday, but there’s no doubt some damage was done.
“I’ve had better trips to New York,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after Minnesota lost for the fifth time in six games and fell to 1-8 in the Bronx during his three seasons in charge. “We’ve got 10 games [left]. My goal right now is to figure out how to get these guys back in a positive frame of mind and try to win a game in Detroit [Thursday].”
There’s a lot to forget about this trio of games, in case they meet again next month, from the Twins’ lack of clutch hits to the minor mistakes that made major impacts, to the firepower that New York finally displayed Wednesday. And the thing they’d like to forget most about this glum afternoon was the foul line drive that struck a small girl sitting behind the Twins dugout, bloodying her face, sending her to the hospital and visibly affecting several players shook up by the sight.
“I still have a knot in my stomach,” the Twins’ Brian Dozier said.
New York seemed almost dismissive of its fellow wild-card contender, using ace righthander Luis Severino — whom Minnesota figures to see again if their projected playoff matchup comes off — for only three innings. Severino wasn’t sharp, and the Twins managed three runs off him with four singles in the third inning. Joe Mauer battled Severino for 13 pitches — four of them 100 miles per hour or faster — and finally delivered an RBI single to give the Twins an early lead.
“A classic,” Molitor said. “Lucky 13, and he delivered.” So did Jorge Polanco, who followed with a single that sneaked between two defenders for a 3-0 lead, and the Twins had reason to contemplate this as a “statement game.”
Perhaps it was, but it wasn’t what they hoped. Minnesota managed only one hit in the final six innings off three Yankees relievers, while New York exploded with 11 runs during an ugly three-inning midgame stretch. Greg Bird led off the third with a double, and Aaron Judge poked a long fly ball the opposite way, curling his 45th homer around the foul pole in right field. When Gary Sanchez then launched a long homer to center field, the Twins’ early lead was gone, and soon enough, amid New York’s wrecking-ball six-run fourth — highlighted by Didi Gregorius’ upper-deck shot, his 25th homer that broke Derek Jeter’s team record for a shortstop — so was Bartolo Colon, who has now given up 16 runs in 11 innings over his past three starts.
“I feel as strong as I felt last time. You can tell by how hard I was throwing the ball,” Colon said, shrugging. “It’s part of the game — sometimes you get hit and sometimes you don’t get hit.”
And that’s the message Molitor wants his players to absorb, that if they’re back on this field Oct. 3, nothing that happened this week, or during their nine-game postseason losing streak to the Yankees, or during their dismal 33-89 showing against New York over 15 years, will matter.
“We’re still in a really good spot, and we should be having a lot of fun,” he said. “It feels heavy at times, but you want guys to feel as loose as they can and let their abilities just fly out on the field. I believe in that group a lot. It hasn’t changed because of the last three days. Not only the talent, but the character and really good leadership in that clubhouse.”