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Brown, bats lift Yanks in Game 310/09/2004 1:45 AM ET
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Yankees have been known for their dramatic postseason victories during the Joe Torre era. There wasn't much drama until the end of Friday night's Game 3 against the Twins. But it was a victory nonetheless, as New York downed Minnesota, 8-4, to take a 2-1 lead in the American League Division Series.
Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui each homered, while Derek Jeter drove in three runs for New York. Kevin Brown tossed six innings of one-run ball, bringing the Yankees to within one win of an ALCS rematch with the Boston Red Sox, who completed a three-game sweep of the Anaheim Angels on Friday.
"I don't care about Boston right now," said Jeter. "We have to play Minnesota first."
Since 1998, the winner of Game 3 in a tie series has won 11 of 14 series in Division Series play.
Brown shut the Twins down after a first-inning home run by Jacque Jones, allowing New York's offense to go to work against Minnesota starter Carlos Silva.
"We knew that we didn't need Brownie to be great, we just needed him to be good tonight," said Alex Rodriguez. "We knew one run wasn't going to beat us."
Down 1-0, New York rallied in the second, hitting five consecutive singles with two outs against Silva. That shouldn't have come as a surprise, given Silva's .373 opponents' batting average with two outs this season. Miguel Cairo, Kenny Lofton and Jeter's base hits each scored runs, as the Yankees took a 3-1 lead.
"We swung the bats well and got some big two-out hits," Jeter said. "Those are the kind of hits you need to get in games like this."
Brown allowed a pair of infield hits in the second, but he struck out Michael Cuddyer and got Henry Blanco to line out to third to end the threat. Minnesota put two men on again in the fourth, but Brown got Cuddyer to ground out to second, stranding another pair.
"As a pitcher, obviously, you like to have such domination that you can walk out there and cruise along and make it look easy," Brown said. "If you have to battle and work your way out of situations with guys on the base, as long as you can keep them from scoring, you know you've done a job for your team."
Silva settled down after the second, allowing just one hit over his next three innings. But the Yankees got to him in the sixth, as Matsui singled to center, setting up Williams' two-run homer over the baggie in right field. Williams now has 20 career postseason homers, extending his own big league record.
"I was just hoping it didn't hit that wall out there and bounce back," Williams said. "I knew I hit it good, but I wasn't completely sure. It was a hit-and-run play, which probably helped. It took the guesswork out of it, because I knew I had to swing the bat."
Jorge Posada followed with a single, driving Silva from the game. J.C. Romero came in and walked John Olerud. Cairo dropped a bunt to move the runners into scoring position, and, after Lofton struck out, Jeter lined Jesse Crain's second pitch of the night to center, scoring both runs to push the Yankees' lead to six runs.
"We tried to get good pitches," Posada said. "He's a sinkerball pitcher, and we waited for him to throw that sinker a little higher. It worked out, and we did some good things with guys on base."
Silva (0-1) was charged with six runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings, striking out one.
Brown got some help from his outfield -- and the Twins -- in the sixth, his final inning. Torii Hunter was thrown out by Matsui when he tried to stretch a double into a triple, while Corey Koskie was nailed by Williams at second to end the frame when he tried to stretch a single into a double.
"I'm sure he felt a little nervous going out there with all the weight on him, but once he gave up the run, he settled down," Gary Sheffield said. "When we started scoring, you could see him bearing down and pitching even better."
Brown (1-0) allowed eight hits over six innings, striking out one without issuing a walk. Brown is now 5-4 in his postseason career with a 3.45 ERA, including a 2-0 mark and 0.98 ERA in Division Series play. Just five weeks after breaking his left hand by punching a clubhouse wall in frustration, Brown came back to give his team what it needed in a pivotal spot.
"In a short series like this, it's all or nothing. To have an opportunity to be a part and to be able to walk out on the field, I don't take that for granted," Brown said. "When I was younger I probably, like most guys, felt a little bit like Superman, like nothing can hurt you. I definitely don't take that for granted these days."
"He did everything possible to keep us in the game," Posada said. "He gave up the home run early, but it didn't break him. He kept coming at them. He was poised, he was calm. He stepped up big-time."
Matsui added to the lead in the seventh with a solo home run, despite Hunter's leaping almost-grab. Hunter actually had the ball in his glove, but when it hit the top of the wall, the ball trickled into the stands, giving Matsui his third career playoff homer.
"I thought he caught it," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I was about to go back to the dugout, but I saw all the guys in there telling me to run. Then I thought he dropped the ball, but when I looked at Luis, he told me it was a home run."
Paul Quantrill tossed a scoreless seventh for the Yankees, then got two outs in the eighth before handing the ball to Felix Heredia with a runner at second. Heredia got Justin Morneau to ground out to end the inning, but he opened the ninth by hitting both Koskie and Lew Ford.
Tanyon Sturtze relieved Heredia, but the Twins hit back-to-back singles, loading the bases and plating a run. That brought closer Mariano Rivera out in a non-save situation, who got Jose Offerman to ground out and Shannon Stewart to hit a sac fly, scoring two runs while getting two important outs. Rivera closed out the game when Jones grounded out to A-Rod at third, giving the Yankees the victory.
"Certainly I would have preferred not to have to bring him in," Torre said. "I wasn't going to wait any longer, though."
Saturday, the Yankees will have a chance to close out the Twins in four games for the second straight year, but they'll have to go through Cy Young Award frontrunner Johan Santana to finish the job.
"It's a great challenge," said A-Rod. "I know he's going to come out ready, but so are we."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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