New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi made numerous lineup changes in the middle game of this road series against the Minnesota Twins.
One move he likely won’t make in Sunday’s finale is to give Alex Rodriguez a rest.
Rodriguez’s magnificent three-homer night helped even this series, and now he’ll try to improve on a poor average in day games as he faces Twins starter Kyle Gibson for the first time.
Girardi did not start Brian McCann, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner on Saturday, with all three expected back in Sunday’s lineup. New York (54-42) trailed by five runs after three innings before rallying for an 8-5 victory behind the fifth career three-homer effort of Rodriguez, who turns 40 on Monday.
"Some people say that life starts at 40. I’ll sign up for that right now," he said.
The slugger went deep twice off starter Tommy Milone before leading off the ninth with a blast off closer Glen Perkins to tie the game. Perkins later allowed a go-ahead, three-run shot by John Ryan Murphy, who replaced McCann at catcher.
"Maybe our best win of the year," Girardi said.
New York has won 10 of 13 and can capture its sixth straight series. Rodriguez is a .220 hitter in day games, while Jacoby Ellsbury, McCann, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Stephen Drew all bat below .225.
While Gibson (8-7, 3.19 ERA) is 1-2 with a 10.95 ERA against New York for his highest ERA against any opponent, it’s deceiving for Sunday since no current Yankees hitter has more than three at-bats or one hit against the right-hander.
Gibson matched a season high by yielding six runs over five-plus innings Tuesday in a 7-0 loss at the Los Angeles Angels. He posted a 1.30 ERA in winning his previous four outings.
"I didn’t have my best stuff," he said. "The pitch I needed the most was my glove-side fastball. It had been the pitch the last couple weeks that had been pretty consistent for me and allowed me to work off that. So not having that was tough."
Gardner entered Saturday as a pinch-hitter and went 0 for 2 to end a career-high, 25-game streak of reaching base. He batted .333 with 17 runs scored in that stretch.
Perkins suffered his second blown save in three opportunities after converting his first 28 for Minnesota (52-45), which had a four-game home win streak snapped with its second loss in 10 games at Target Field.
The Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.43) is 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA in his last six starts as he faces the Twins for the first time. He yielded two runs over 5 2/3 innings and did not get a decision in Tuesday’s 3-2 home win over Baltimore.
The right-hander owns baseball’s third-best run support average at 7.03. That’s why he has an impressive record despite opponents batting .302 against him for the majors’ second-worst mark.
Eovaldi has a 5.19 road ERA compared to 3.66 at home. He is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five day starts.
Twins veteran Torii Hunter is 1 for 6 off Eovaldi. Hunter is 3 for 9 with two homers and four RBI in this series while Aaron Hicks is 3 for 8 with one homer and four RBI.