Game 68: NYY vs. MIN — Perfect day for baseball, not-so-perfect baseball

A beautiful sunny afternoon in the Upper Midwest. Partly cloudy skies and 81°. A perfect Saturday afternoon in June for a baseball game. Of course, this was no ordinary baseball game. In fact, it looked like the Yankees weren’t going to pull this one through for most of the game, only to comeback big, only to almost let it go again.

Michael Pineda got the start today for the Yankees, with mixed results. He threw 96 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits and 4 runs (only 3 earned), but struck out 9 Twins batters in the process (that’s almost 2 per inning, usually around the hits and runs scored by the Twins.

Like in the 2nd, Pineda started and ended the inning with strikeouts, but gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a fly out and then scored on an RBI single between them. And in the 4th, he punctuated major offensive plays with 3 strikeouts in this inning — a rather good triple and then a 2-run home run. Pineda started the 6th inning with strikeout, but then gave up a single and a stolen base, before allowing a batter on base with his own missed catch error.

Pineda passed the ball to reliever Anthony Swarzak to close out the 6th with the most interesting play — the batter hit the ball into a double play, a fly ball to centerfield. Ellsbury caught it, threw home, missing the runner scoring at home, and then got the runner trying to make it to 2nd. Then Swarzak set the Twins’ lineup down in the 7th inning in order. Andrew Miller kept the Twins from adding to their score in the 8th inning, and because of what happened in the last third of the game, things were looking up for the Yankees.

Up until the 7th inning, the Yankees weren’t doing so well offensively, not being able to get on the board with anything. In the Twins’ starter’s final inning (the 7th), the Yankees just started gaining back their 4-0 deficit with gusto. Beltran led-off with a single, and then Alex Rodriguez hit a big 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. Despite a couple of singles, the Yankees exited that inning with the Twins’ lead halved.

So they came back in the 8th inning with a pitching change, the first of 3 pitchers the Twins would use in this inning. With 1 out, Gardner singled to get on base. Pitching change #2. Then Carlos Beltran plunked a big 2-run home run into the left field seats to tie up the game. That pitcher also struck out a batter before his night was over. The final pitcher of the inning got a fly out to get out with the game tied.

At least until the 9th inning. Headley worked a walk to lead off the inning, and Gregorius laid out a perfect bunt single. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position before the pitcher opted to intentionally walk Refsnyder, after a couple a bad pitches and to kill time for a new reliever. With 1 out, Jacoby Ellsbury’s solid single scored both Headley and Gregorius to push the Yankees into the lead. A wild pitch then moved the runners up, which came in handy as Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Refsnyder for the insurance run the Yankees would definitely need.

So, with the Yankees safely in the lead by 3 runs, they were looking for a quick 3 outs to make this 3 wins in a row. But it wasn’t going to be that easy. Aroldis Chapman quickly breezed through 2 batters with a couple of nasty strikeouts, and then created some nail-biting drama with back-to-back solo home runs (both into the left field seats) to put the Twins within a single run. But fortunately, Chapman got his next batter to hit into a simple ground out to end the Twins’ rally and earn his 13th save this season.

Worth noting: Yankee pitchers cobbled together a couple of impressive statistics — no walks and 15 total strikeouts. That’s some fancy pitching there.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees.

So, Alex Rodriguez’s home run in the 7th inning to start the runs for the Yankees was his 350th as a Yankee, his 695th in his career, and his 8th this season. He and Beltran are certainly maintaining the back bone of the offensive power this season. Kind of puts all that chatter about age to bed, doesn’t it?

And the Yankees currently have a fun statistic to add to their many accolades. They play really well at Target Field. The park opened in 2010 and the Yankees currently have a 19-5 win-loss rate; they score an average of 5.6 runs per game; bat an average of .280, hit 34 total home runs, and pitch with an ERA of 3.71. This gives them the best record at any current American League ball park. So not only are the Twins not playing well this season, the Yankees play well at the Twins’ stadium. This is the kind of weekend the Yankees needed to boost their average back to par (34-34) again.

Plus, they still have one more game in Target Field tomorrow afternoon! Fingers crossed for a sweep!

Go Yankees!

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