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Yanks baffled by Santana
10/05/2004 1:32 AM ET
NEW YORK -- Tuesday night's game looked like a repeat of last year's American League Division Series opener, as the Twins took Game 1 with a low-scoring, well-played 2-0 win over the Yankees.

The Yankees managed nine hits against Johan Santana, the likely AL Cy Young Award winner, but the Twins turned five double plays to back their starter, setting a new postseason record.

"We hit the ball hard and they made plays," said Gary Sheffield. "When you have a great pitcher like him on the mound and guys are making plays behind him, it's hard to win."

Mike Mussina turned in a solid, seven-inning performance, but the Yankees' bats fell silent when it counted, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Including last year's shutout in Game 6 of the World Series, New York has now gone scoreless in 18 consecutive postseason innings.

"Moose has been pitching well for a while," said Derek Jeter. "He went out and put us in a great position to win, we just couldn't score."

This marks the fourth consecutive postseason series in which the Yankees have lost the first game, but they went on to win two of the last three. Jon Lieber will look to even the series on Wednesday, as he takes the mound for New York against Minnesota's Brad Radke in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.

"We haven't played very well in Game 1 since I've been here," said Mussina. "We'll find a way to get through it, find a way to come out and play better tomorrow."

The Yankees threatened in the first, putting two men on with one out after an Alex Rodriguez single and a Sheffield walk. Bernie Williams worked the count full against Santana, but he took a called third strike with the runners on the move, as catcher Henry Blanco fired to third, nailing A-Rod to end the inning with a double play.

Santana found himself in trouble again in the second after leadoff singles by Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui, but with one out and runners at the corners, John Olerud lifted a fly ball to center, where Torii Hunter threw a perfect strike to Blanco, who tagged Posada at the plate to complete another double play.

"That's why he's got a Gold Glove," Posada said. "We tried to get on a little run there, make him be accurate. There's not much you can do."

After a leadoff single in the first, Mussina retired six in a row. The Twins got to him in the third, starting with Michael Cuddyer's single to right. Blanco bunted him to second and Shannon Stewart drove him in with a single to left, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

Mussina held the Twins down after allowing the run, retiring eight of the next nine batters. But Jacque Jones, who arrived in New York on Tuesday morning after taking the red-eye from Sacramento following the death of his father, belted his first career postseason homer with one out in the sixth, boosting Minnesota's lead to 2.

"I threw him so many breaking balls, so we decided to go fastball away for one pitch," Mussina said. "It wasn't a bad pitch, he just swung late and hit it hard. I didn't think he hit it hard enough to go out, but it went out."

Williams tried to start another rally for the Yankees in the fourth with a leadoff single, but New York was victimized by yet another double play, this time a 6-4-3 off the bat of Posada. Matsui followed with a double to right, but Sierra couldn't bring him home, grounding out to end the frame.

Game 1 losses under Joe Torre; Series result
1996 ALDS vs. TEX; Won series, 3-1
1996 World Series vs. ATL; Won series, 4-2
2000 ALDS vs. OAK; Won series, 3-2
2000 ALCS vs. SEA; Won series, 4-2
2001 ALDS vs. OAK; Won series, 3-2
2001 World Series vs. ARI; Lost series, 4-3
2003 ALDS vs. MIN; Won series, 3-1
2003 ALCS vs. BOS; Won series, 4-3
2003 World Series vs. FLA; Lost series, 4-2
2004 ALDS vs. Minnesota; ???

Santana got more help from his defense, which turned a fourth double play in the fifth inning, erasing yet another leadoff runner. The Yankees put men on base in each of the first six innings, but were unable to scratch out a run against Santana.

"He's one of those guys who if he's not getting one pitch over, he can go to three or four other ones," Sheffield said. "His fastball was up and out of the strike zone, so he went to his breaking stuff. When he got behind in the count, he went to his cutter to make his fastball move. He pitched a great game."

Sierra almost put the Yankees on the board in the seventh, as he lifted a ball down the left-field line. Left-field umpire Jerry Crawford signaled a home run, but after a conference with the rest of the crew, the ball was called foul. Miguel Cairo doubled with two outs in the inning, but Santana got Jeter to ground out to strand the runner.

Mussina left the game after seven innings, charged with two runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out seven, taking the loss to fall to 5-6 in his postseason career.

"I pitched a pretty decent game," Mussina said. "He just pitched a little better game."

Santana also went seven, scattering nine hits without allowing a run. He walked one and struck out five, earning his first career postseason win.

"We felt good about ourselves, we were aggressive, we were patient when we needed to be," said manager Joe Torre. "All of those things worked right, but the final score didn't work out well."

Juan Rincon relieved Santana to start the eighth, and Hunter came to his rescue as well, making a leaping grab on an A-Rod fly ball at the top of the wall. Rincon issued a one-out walk before inducing New York's fifth twin-killing of the night, as Williams grounded into a 6-4-3 to end the inning.

"Torii saved two runs for them," Rodriguez said. "The throw home and the leadoff double -- or whatever that would have been -- in the eighth. Pitching and defense usually wins, so you just tip your cap. We played a good, sound game. We didn't beat ourselves."

Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera held the lead at 2 by retiring all six batters they faced, but Joe Nathan nailed down the win with a scoreless ninth, closing out the win for Minnesota.

The Yankees have been in this spot many times before, and they have responded well almost every time. But instead of sending Andy Pettitte to the hill as they did year after year in Torre's Game 2s, New York now turns to Lieber.

"We don't have anything to hang our heads about," Sheffield said. "You have to have a short memory and put it out of your mind. We believe in each other."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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