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Comeback kids do it again
10/06/2004 11:45 PM ET
NEW YORK -- The comeback kids did it again.

The Yankees overcame a 12th-inning deficit against the Twins on Wednesday, scoring twice in the bottom of the inning to take a dramatic, 7-6 win in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

Derek Jeter got the Yankees started with a leadoff home run, then scored the game-winner on a shallow sacrifice fly by Hideki Matsui, completing the dramatic comeback.

"It was huge," Jeter said. "A five-game series is so short, so this would have been a tough one to lose."

Alex Rodriguez had a huge game, going 4-for-6 with a home run and three RBIs. His RBI double off Joe Nathan in the decisive 12th tied the game, setting the stage for the victory.

"He's the best player in baseball," said Gary Sheffield, who also homered for New York. "He showed that tonight."

New York, which had a Major League-best 61 comeback wins this season, evened the best-of-five series at 1, as the teams head to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4 at the Metrodome.

That the Twins had the opportunity to win the game in extra innings was a surprise, as Minnesota scored twice against Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, erasing a two-run deficit. For Rivera, the blown save was just the third in his incredible postseason career, the first at Yankee Stadium.

"It happens. That's baseball," Rivera said. "The good thing is that we were able to come back and score a few runs."

Facts machine: Comebackers
The Yankees set a record with 61 come-from-behind victories during the regular season and notched their 62nd of the '04 campaign in Wednesday's thrilling, 7-6 victory in 12 innings. Down one run, they rallied for two in the 12th to win it. Here's a breakdown of their comebacks this season:
Deficit No. comebacks
Six runs 2
Five runs 2
Four runs 5
Three runs 10
Two runs 13
One run 30

Jon Lieber allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings in the first postseason start of his career, but the usually reliable relief duo couldn't nail down the win for the right-hander.

After the Twins took a 1-0 lead in the first, Jeter wasted no time in tying the game, crushing a home run into the center field "black" seats on Brad Radke's third pitch. Jeter joins Reggie Jackson and Jay Buhner as the only players to hit the black in a postseason game.

Jeter's homer snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, dating back to Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.

"He's a guy we follow," said Jorge Posada. "He does it over and over again, and it's fun to see the way he approaches the game. It was like today was a regular-season game for him. He's as relaxed as anybody."

Minnesota plated a pair of runs against Lieber in the second, but Sheffield erased the deficit in the third, drilling a two-run blast to left, his fifth career postseason homer.

Two innings later, A-Rod belted a solo shot of his own, snapping the 3-3 tie. Rodriguez's homer set off a frenzy in the Bronx, as the 56,354 in attendance went wild after New York took its first lead of the series.

Lieber settled down after his rough start, retiring the Twins in order in the third and fourth innings. Minnesota put runners on base in the fifth and sixth, but Lieber escaped both innings unharmed.

"Lieber, the first couple of innings, gives up three runs and then he just gave up a couple of hits for the next four or five innings," said manager Joe Torre. "I thought he was great."

With the tying run in scoring position and two outs in the seventh, Torre turned to Gordon, who retired pinch-hitter Jose Offerman on a flare to second, where Cairo made a jumping catch for the final out.

The Yankees manufactured an important insurance run against Radke in the seventh, using a Cairo walk, a sac bunt by Jeter and an RBI single by A-Rod to boost the lead to 5-3.

Gordon started the eighth, but after two runners reached base with one out, Torre called on Rivera to put out the fire.

Only Rivera couldn't shut it down.

Morneau blooped a single to right, scoring Jacque Jones to make it a one-run game. Koskie then took a great at-bat against the closer, fouling off a couple of pitches with two strikes. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Koskie lofted an outside fastball to the opposite field, which bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring Hunter from third to tie the game.

"We were trying to go away, but I made a mistake," Rivera said. "We got burned."

It was just his third blown save in 33 career postseason opportunities for Rivera, who saved 53 of 57 this season. The previous two were Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS in Cleveland and Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona.

Rivera sat the Twins down in order in the ninth, but Juan Rincon threw his second scoreless inning, retiring all six batters he faced to send the game into extra innings.

Tanyon Sturtze relieved Rivera to start the 10th, and he pitched aggressively over two scoreless innings. Twins closer Joe Nathan matched him, and it was clear that the game would come down to which bullpen blinked first.

That turned out to be Sturtze, who quickly retired the first two batters in the 12th before serving up a 1-0 pitch that Hunter ripped over the left-field fence.

"I felt good for the early couple of innings and then I got a little tired in the last inning," Sturtze said. "I tried to empty my tank. I knew it was my last one so I tried to give all I had."

Now, it was up to the Yankees to produce yet another comeback. They were up to the task.

"We never doubt ourselves," Sheffield said. "We've been doing it all year, so there was no reason that we couldn't do it again."

Nathan came back out for a third inning, but after striking out John Olerud, Nathan lost control, walking Cairo and Jeter, throwing nine consecutive balls in the process. That brought A-Rod to the plate.

"I had to make sure he throws strikes," Rodriguez said. "Jeet had a great at-bat, and I wanted to make sure I forced him to throw strikes. I think he threw me a 1-1 slider and I hit it pretty well."

That's an understatement. A-Rod smoked the pitch to left-center, as it bounced over the fence for a double. Cairo scored on the play, tying the game. After intentionally walking Sheffield, the Twins brought in J.C. Romero to face Matsui, who hit the first pitch to shallow right, where Jacque Jones caught it.

"I told Luis [Sojo, the third base coach] I was tagging up on anything," Jeter said. "You can be your own base coach most of the time."

Jeter's decision paid off, as Jones' throw was offline, forcing Matt LeCroy to cut it off and try making a throw himself. Jeter beat the throw with ease, capping the comeback win.

"It was pretty shallow, but I was going to be aggressive. I was going all the way," Jeter said. "You have to force someone to make a play. I decided to take a chance."

"I thought it was going to be close," said Matsui through an interpreter. "I'm just honestly happy. I'm glad that it led to the team's win. I'm just happy."

The win gives the Yankees some momentum as the series moves to Minneapolis, but they know that they still have their work cut out for them.

"There's something about this team in the postseason that never ceases to amaze me," Williams said. "It's not that we expect things like this to happen, but we're not going to give up and fold. We're going to keep fighting until the end."

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

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