Yanks rally past Twins in 12th to even series

Down 6-5, Rodriguez's double ties it

Matsui's sacrifice fly with bases loaded gives N.Y. 7-6 win

AL Division Series

Baseball

October 07, 2004|By Ken Davidoff | Ken Davidoff,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - On the precipice of desperation, the New York Yankees responded last night, just in time. The $190 million vehicle is not quite ready for flop-dom.

A 12th-inning comeback gave the Yankees a thrilling, 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. Team captain Derek Jeter tagged up on Hideki Matsui's fly ball to right field and scored easily to cap the two-run rally and bring the Yankees back to life.

So the teams head to the Metrodome for tomorrow night's Game 3 with the series tied, but the Yankees are elated, while the Twins are deflated.

In coming back to win, the Yankees overcame the third blown save of Mariano Rivera's postseason career in 33 chances.

Torii Hunter homered off Tanyon Sturtze with two outs in the 12th, giving the Twins a 6-5 lead. The Twins stuck with their closer, Joe Nathan for his third inning of work.

"He was still throwing 94, 95, 96 mph," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's a little disappointing. I probably left him out there too long. I didn't like our options."

John Olerud struck out on a checked swing, but No. 9 hitter Miguel Cairo drew a quick walk, drawing a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson. That didn't do any good, as Jeter drew a four-pitch walk.

"For us to have a chance to go up two games, that was a tough one," Nathan said. "I'm really disappointed with the walks."

Alex Rodriguez, the night's offensive hero, ripped a drive to left-center field. It eluded left-fielder Shannon Stewart, landed safely and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Cairo scored the tying run, and Jeter advanced to third.

"This team never gives up," Rodriguez said. "When we fell behind in the 12th, we felt like there was a window of opportunity with Nathan going out for his third inning. If we can just get some guys on, we can tie it or win it."

"Alex had a little trouble settling in here, but when you do this at Yankee Stadium in a postseason game, especially coming from behind, God only knows what it's going to do for him," New York manager Joe Torre said. "You couldn't get a bigger hit."

Nathan intentionally walked Gary Sheffield, and the Twins went to left-hander J.C. Romero to go after Matsui. His line drive didn't go very deep, and right-fielder Jacque Jones caught it. But Jeter tagged and beat the relay from Jones to first baseman Matt LeCroy to catcher Pat Borders.

"I didn't care, I was going no matter what," Jeter said. "Sometimes you have to force guys to make plays."

The Yankees gave the bullpen a 5-3 lead, largely on homers by Jeter, Sheffield and Rodriguez.

But Tom Gordon found trouble in the eighth, in a rally that began with a strikeout, of all things. Rivera completed the damage, in what was his first blown save since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

"I'm human," Rivera said. "It definitely bothers me. They gave me a two-run lead and suddenly it disappears."

Sturtze relieved Rivera to start the 10th, and he got through his first two innings without allowing a run. He retired the first two batters of the 12th.

Hunter connected on a 1-and-0 offering and crushed it, well into the left-field stands. The air went out of Yankee Stadium, as the fans who stuck around seemed to realize what their team was up against. Yet for the 62nd time this season, they overcame a deficit to win.

Jeter led off with a first-inning blast into "the black," the unoccupied center-field bleachers, to tie the score 1-1. Sheffield's two-run shot tied it in the third. Rodriguez joined Sheffield in hitting his first postseason homer as a Yankee, going deep in the fifth to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.

In his postseason debut, Jon Lieber contributed a characteristic outing: 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs and seven hits.

Gordon relieved Lieber with two outs in the seventh and quickly picked up the last out, and in the bottom of the seventh, Rodriguez singled in an insurance run for a 5-3 lead. Gordon retired Stewart to start the eighth. He struck out Jones, but his pitch bounced and got away from Jorge Posada, and Jones ran to first base.

Hunter hit a line drive to center field, and Bernie Williams hesitated. The ball fell in front of Williams for a single, with Jones moving to second. With a string of lefty hitters due up, Joe Torre went to Rivera, who limited lefthanders to a .234 average this season.

Rivera didn't exactly take a beating, but he failed nonetheless. Justin Morneau sent a flare to short right. Sheffield attempted a sliding catch, but he didn't come close. With that, Jones scored, cutting the Yankees' edge to 5-4, and Hunter went to third.

Corey Koskie fell behind 0-and-2, but battled back to a full count, fouling off a couple of two-strike pitches. Then he sent a line drive the other way that bounced into the left-field stands for a ground-rule double. Hunter scored the tying run, and pinch runner Luis Rivas moved to third. He would have scored easily if the ball had stayed in play.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Twins vs. Yankees(Series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Minnesota 2, N.Y. 0

Last night: New York 7, Minnesota 6, 12 innings

Tomorrow: New York (Brown 10-6) at Minnesota (Silva 14-8), 8:09 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday: New York at Minnesota, TBA

*Sunday: Minnesota at New York, TBA

* if necessary

Division Series

Yesterday's results

Houston 9, Atlanta 3

N.Y. Yankees 7, Minnesota 6, 12 inn.

Boston 8, Anaheim 3

(Coverage, Page 6C)

Today's games

Houston at Atlanta, 4:09 p.m., ESPN

Los Angeles at St. Louis, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5

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