MINNEAPOLIS — Things could hardly have gone any better for the Twins on Wednesday, when they completed the final four innings of Tuesday’s series opener with the Yankees. Minnesota put runners on base in all four innings, hit the ball hard numerous times, and basically shut down the Yankee lineup, retiring 12 of 14 hitters and only allowing three balls out of the infield.
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“Duensing did a great job. Crain did a great job,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of the left-righty combo he used for the four-inning mini-game. “We had some really good results.”
Yep. All but one.
The Yankees won, of course, because that’s what the Yankees generally do against the Twins, whether here or in New York. Derek Jeter bashed Duensing’s sixth pitch into the bullpen, then almost single-handedly made the run hold up with a spectacular play to snuff a second-and-third Twins threat, and the Yankees won for the 10th time in their last 11 games against the Twins.
“He’s a great player. He hits the big home run, he makes the big defensive play — he’s been doing that a lot of years,” Gardenhire said. “That’s why he’s the captain.”
And that’s why Minnesota hasn’t won a series against these guys since, what, the 1940s? Or so it seems. It took two days to finish, but the Yankees are now 1-0 at Target Field, just as they also were once 1-0 at Metropolitan Stadium and the Metrodome.
Still, there were plenty of positives for the Twins, beginning (literally) with Duensing. The left-hander came up as a starter, and went 5-1 in that role last season. But he has filled in as a lefty specialist this season, and had yet to face more than seven batters in any outing this year; only once had he thrown more than 23 pitches.
“He’s kind of battled for us, but he needed to pitch. It was very important to stretch him out a little bit and get some innings in,” Gardenhire said.
Mission accomplished. Duensing pitched three innings, allowed Jeter’s home run (on a 1-1 changeup) and a double to Robinson Cano, but was otherwise spotless. “I got a little tired in the last inning, so I had to tell myself, ‘Just try not to create too much. Just let the ball go where it’s supposed to,'” Duensing said.
Crain was just as good, retiring Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Alex Robinson on 11 pitches, including an off-the-table curve to strike out A-Rod. That’s four consecutive scoreless appearances for Crain, which illustrates exactly why the Twins are reluctant to write him off.
A couple more notes from the four-inning warmup act:
— The Yankees’ last 1-0 victory over the Twins was pitched by Dave Righetti on May 22, 1982.
— The Twins’ first batter was Joe Mauer, who hit a screaming line drive off Yankee reliever/starter David Robertson’s lower back. It was hit so hard, the ball caromed to third base, and Rodriguez caught it for an out. The game might have been different had it bounced in another direction, since Justin Morneau followed with a walk and Jason Kubel doubled. That’s when Jeter ranged deep into the hole and made an amazing leaping throw to get Delmon Young for the run-saving final out of the inning.
— J.J. Hardy, in his first game back from the disabled list, drove a Mariano Rivera pitch to the wall in left field, but it hung up for Kevin Russo to catch. Did Gardenhire think it was a game-tying home run, the Twins’ second off Rivera in 10 days? “Absolutely,” the manager said. “I thought he got it pretty good.”
— Clay Condrey will leave the team soon to have his pitching elbow looked at by New York specialist David Altchek, the same surgeon who diagnosed and repaired Joe Nathan’s injury. Condrey still feels tightness in his elbow, but is deciding whether to try to pitch anyway.
“He’s going to get another opinion, which is a good thing. He should,” Gardenhire said of the 34-year-old right-hander. “If he started throwing and something were to happen, it would be a hard road back.”
Condrey is trying to decide whether to start pitching again, either with or without a cortisone injection, or shut down completely for two months.
— Joe Mauer is the DH in the regularly scheduled night game, with Jason Kubel taking a seat against Yankee left-hander Andy Pettitte.