Brown's return gives Yanks win, 2-1 lead in series

6 sharp innings halt Twins as New York rolls, 8-4, goes for clincher today


October 09, 2004|By Dom Amore | Dom Amore,THE HARTFORD COURANT

MINNEAPOLIS - Kevin Brown worked hard to reassure his teammates that he was not an out-of-control and unreliable personality. His intensity could be an asset when they needed it most.

With little choice, the Yankees gave Brown a chance last night, and he came through big time. Pitching through apparent back pain, Brown drove himself through six innings, holding the Minnesota Twins to one run. And by the time he turned the ball over the bullpen, the Yankees had an insurmountable lead.

"As long as you can keep them from scoring, you know you've done your job for the team," Brown said.

Derek Jeter's three RBIs and home runs by Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui gave the Yankees an 8-4 victory over the Twins before a packed but mostly silent Metrodome. Now the Yankees lead the Division Series 2-1, and need one win in the next two games to make their half of the long-anticipated rematch against the Red Sox in American League Championship Series.

Javier Vazquez opposes Twins ace Johan Santana, who is going on three days' rest, in Game 4 today.

Brown, 39, had a tumultuous year, losing 15 pounds after contracting an intestinal parasite, re-injuring his back, on which he had surgery two years ago, and breaking his left hand punching a wall in a rage Sept. 3 against the Orioles. By then, the Yankees, who badly needed his veteran presence in the postseason, had just about had it with Brown, but he apologized to the team Sept. 5, with Gary Sheffield, who played with him in Los Angeles, speaking passionately in his defense. Brown had one terrible and one good start in the last week of the season, but with Orlando Hernandez out with a tired arm, the Yankees had to count on him.

Jacque Jones, the second batter of the game, homered off Brown, who didn't seem to have anywhere near his usual velocity. He gave up seven other hits, including four infield hits on the artificial turf, but kept the Twins scoreless the next five innings, getting out of jams in the second and fourth.

The Yankees, ahead 3-1, got their bullpen up in the fifth, and it looked as if Brown, shown sitting with his head bowed in the dugout, was coming out. But after Williams' homer and Jeter's two-run single broke the game open, he came out and pitched the sixth, getting help when Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie ran into foolish outs on the bases. Brown threw 84 pitches, 62 for strikes, before Paul Quantrill took over in the seventh.

The Twins scored three runs in the ninth as Felix Heredia hit two batters and Tanyon Sturtze allowed two hits before Mariano Rivera got three outs.

Matsui homered in the seventh, a ball on which Hunter nearly made one of his spectacular catches. But when Hunter hit the wall, the ball was jarred loose from his glove and it ended up in the seats.

Down 1-0 in the second inning, the Yankees played some turf ball against Carlos Silva, the Twins' sinker-baller. With two outs, Jorge Posada lined a single up the middle, then John Olerud hit a hard grounder just to the right of shortstop Cristian Guzman and into left field.

Miguel Cairo hit a blooper over the head of first baseman Justin Morneau for a single, tying the score. Then Kenny Lofton, in his first at-bat of the series, slapped a single to left, the ball falling just in front of Shannon Stewart, scoring another run. Jeter hit a ground ball through the hole on the left side, the Yankees' fifth single in a row, scoring Cairo and giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead. With a chance to break the game open early, Alex Rodriguez popped to second.

"Those are the type of hits you've got to get - two-out hits," Jeter said. "Playing on the road, you want to take the crowd out of it."

Brown was tested in the second, when Jeter picked up Lew Ford's grounder and, throwing off balance, misfired. It was scored a single and an error, and when Cairo made a diving stop of Guzman's grounder but couldn't make a throw, the Twins had runners at the corners with one out. Brown rose to the situation, striking out Michael Cuddyer as Guzman stole second, then getting Henry Blanco on a line drive to Rodriguez at third.

The Yankees had another chance to knock Silva out in the third after Sheffield led off with a double to left-center. Morneau stabbed Matsui's hard grounder, but tried to trap Sheffield in a rundown. Sheffield got back to second, and the Yankees had two on with none out. But Silva got Williams to hit a hard grounder to short, an easy double play, and slipped a called third strike past Posada.

Brown made another big pitch, getting Michael Cuddyer to ground out and strand two runners in the fourth, then pitched a 1-2-3 fifth.

The Yankees knocked out Silva in the sixth. Matsui singled and Williams hit the first pitch over the high plastic wall in right to make it 5-1. It was Williams' 20th postseason homer, extending his record. When Posada followed with a single, J.C. Romero replaced Silva and walked Olerud. Cairo bunted the runners over, then Romero struck out Lofton.

Right-hander Jesse Crain came on to face Jeter, who delivered a single up the middle to score two, giving the Yankees a 7-1 lead.

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

Twins vs. Yankees

Best of five; *-if necessary New York leads series 2-1

Game 1: Minnesota, 2-0

Game 2: New York, 7-6, 12 inn.

Yesterday: New York, 8-4

Today: N.Y. (Vazquez 14-10) at Minnesota (Santana 20-6), 4:25 p.m., chs. 45, 5

*Tomorrow: at New York, 8:10 p.m., chs. 45, 5

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