MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ten days ago, the Minnesota Twins used a grand slam to fuel a rare victory over Mariano Rivera and their long-running American League nemesis, the New York Yankees.
How’s this for a response? Rivera roared back with two saves in a span of less than four hours, sealing consecutive victories by the Yankees at the Twins’ new ballpark.
Home runs by Derek Jeter in the first game and Nick Swisher in the second game were enough for the Yankees to beat the Twins 1-0 and 3-2 on Wednesday, beginning with the completion of a rain-halted contest started the night before.
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Swisher hit his tiebreaking solo shot in the ninth inning against Twins closer Jon Rauch (1-1), giving Andy Pettitte (6-1) the bounce-back victory after eight masterful innings.
“Doesn’t matter who it is. A loss is a loss,” Rauch said. “We’re trying to win every game we can regardless of who the opponent is, and today I blew it for us.”
Jeter homered off Brian Duensing (2-1) and made a highlight-reel play at shortstop in the sixth inning of the first game, after A.J. Burnett and Scott Baker started the pitching duel stopped by a thunderstorm after five scoreless innings.
Then in the bottom of the inning, after David Robertson had men at first and third, Jeter saved at least one run — if not two — by going to his right and backhanding a grounder hit by Delmon Young. His jump throw was right on target.
“He’s made that as well as anyone I’ve ever seen,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Rivera notched the save with a scoreless ninth in that one, too, making up for his only blown chance of the season at Yankee Stadium on May 16 against the Twins. Burnett (5-2) got the win despite not pitching Wednesday for the Yankees, who had lost six of their previous eight games before this series.
“He owes me, I guess,” Jeter said.
Rivera was ready to pitch twice when he arrived at the ballpark.
Joe Mauer gave Minnesota the lead in the second game with a first-inning single, but Kevin Russo’s two-out double on a full-count slider tied the game in the fourth. Brett Gardner’s two-out triple drove in Russo for the sixth-inning lead, before the Twins tied it again on Young’s double in the seventh. Pettitte might have saved himself the victory when he jumped for J.J. Hardy’s high hopper over the mound and whirled around to catch Young stranded too far off second.
Then came the eighth, when Pettitte really went to work.
Drew Butera began the eighth with a double, his first career extra-base hit, and Denard Span’s bunt was fielded but flubbed by third baseman Alex Rodriguez for an error.
Pettitte made another superb defensive play by stabbing Orlando Hudson’s line drive for the first out, then got Mauer to ground into a double play. Jeter had shifted to his left, in perfect position to field the ball hit hard and just to the left of second base.
“If there is somebody that can get out of a jam like that, it’s Andy,” Rivera said. “He made the pitches. He had his composure, and he got it done. I’ve seen it over and over.”
The Twins, who lead the league in double plays grounded into, lamented a bunch of missed opportunities. The Twins went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position over these two games.
“We’re losing games to this team, but they’re not by a lot,” Span said. “We’ve just got to find a way when we’re playing this team to take advantage of the opportunities we do get.”
Just like Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano, Pettitte bounced back from a rough start — when he gave up nine hits and seven runs in five innings in a loss to division-leading Tampa Bay. Pettitte gave up eight hits and two runs while striking out four.
Girardi used a little gamesmanship, talking to Pettitte on the mound at the start of the ninth while Rivera warmed up, then made the change before Pettitte threw a pitch.
Liriano was back in his pitcher-of-the-month form from April. After going 4-0 in his first five starts and then 0-3 in his previous three, allowing 13 runs in 16 2-3 innings, the left-hander finished seven innings with seven strikeouts.
NOTES: Former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani took in the games from a seat behind the plate. He and Gardenhire were two of the featured guests at a motivational business seminar held across the street at a packed Target Center arena.