Two much: A-Rod, Teixeira topple Twins
Walk-off homer rescues bullpen and secures two-game lead
NEW YORK -- The Yankees had more fun than anyone this year, wildly celebrating 15 "walk-off" victories in Yankee Stadium's inaugural season. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira helped them find out just how much more special one is in October.
A-Rod crushed a game-tying home run and Teixeira lined the winning blast as the Yankees came from behind to defeat the Twins on Friday, 4-3, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
"Hopefully, we finish the goal that we've put out for ourselves all year," Teixeira said. "Right now, you can enjoy it for a couple of hours, but if you don't take care of business, it kind of loses its magic, I think."
With the Yankees trailing by two runs with three outs of life remaining in Game 2, Rodriguez took another step into what could be his new role -- postseason hero -- by launching a laser off closer Joe Nathan that drew a deafening curtain call from the largest crowd to date at baseball's new Cathedral.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
"Obviously, we needed it," Rodriguez said. "It's the way we've been playing baseball all year. Nothing has changed for us. There's been a lot of magic in there, and everybody has contributed. For me, personally, that was a lot of fun."
0-2 Division Series deficits
Two innings later, Teixeira picked the perfect time to launch his first career postseason home run -- and his first walk-off shot in pinstripes. The first baseman connected on a 2-1 cutter from Jose Mijares that just cleared the left-field wall, meeting concrete and bouncing high into the air to set off an electric celebration in the Bronx.
"It's a pretty unbelievable feeling as a manager when you get to put those two guys in your lineup every day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They've been huge for us all year. The emotions in this game were unbelievable."
Teixeira sprinted around the bases and flipped his helmet skyward, landing on home plate with a half-hop to celebrate the first walk-off homer by a Yankee since Aaron Boone's blow against the Red Sox in the 2003 AL Championship Series.
"I really thought it was going to be a double, because I hit it with so much topspin," Teixeira said. "I hit it hard, but there was so much topspin, I thought there was no chance it was going to get out. I was running hard, making sure I got two. Then the crowd started going nuts -- I figured it was a home run."
Having lost all nine meetings with the Yankees this year and facing elimination on Sunday, the Twins traveled home having to lament their missed chances.
Minnesota left 17 men on base in the loss, but no situation was more glaring than that of the 11th inning, when rookie Dave Robertson -- now known as "Houdini" in Yankees circles -- got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam that included a bit of controversy.
Leading off the inning, Joe Mauer sliced a Damaso Marte pitch that should have been called a ground-rule double but was ruled foul by left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi. Instead, Mauer settled for a single, which helped the Yankees -- two hits followed, but Mauer was pinned at third base instead of scoring.
Bronx big shots
|'09 ALDS||M. Teixeira||J. Mijares||MIN|
|'03 ALCS||A. Boone||T. Wakefield||BOS|
|'01 WS||D. Jeter||B.H. Kim||ARI|
|'01 ALCS||A. Soriano||K. Sasaki||SEA|
|'99 WS||C. Curtis||M. Remlinger||ATL|
|'99 ALCS||B. Williams||R. Beck||BOS|
|'96 ALDS||B. Williams||R. Myers||BAL|
|'95 ALDS||J. Leyritz||T. Belcher||SEA|
|'76 ALCS||C. Chambliss||M. Littell||KC|
|'64 WS||M. Mantle||B. Shultze||STL|
|'49 WS||T. Henrich||D. Newcombe||BRO|
"There's always that element of human error in the game, and we got a little break," Girardi said.
Taking advantage, Robertson induced two balls to Teixeira -- a groundout and a fielder's choice -- before escaping the inning with a flyout to center. That set up New York's first winning comeback from a multiple-run ninth inning deficit since Game 5 of the 2001 World Series.
"Everybody wants to get out of that situation, but nobody really wants to get stuck in that situation," Robertson said. "I was just lucky enough to get out of it."
New York trailed late after a rare breakdown for a bullpen that has been one of the club's greatest strengths, as Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera gave up run-scoring hits in the eighth inning, with Nick Punto and Denard Span cashing blows.
But even that wasn't enough to topple the Yankees, who continue to believe that they might be haunted by the same friendly ghosts who always kept the late innings interesting across the street.
"They've been showing up all year," Derek Jeter said. "We've had a lot of fun games here, comebacks. You don't like to fall behind, but if and when we do, we feel that we have a lot of confidence that we can come back.
"It seems like it's been a magical year so far here, and hopefully, we have a few more great moments."
A-Rod certainly hopes so. Playing in front of 50,006 witnesses -- including his good friend, hip surgeon Dr. Marc Philippon -- Rodriguez prefaced his clutch homer with another big hit, a single in the sixth inning for his third straight RBI hit with a runner in scoring position.
"I'm going out there and having fun doing the best that I can," Rodriguez said. "It's kind of what I've done here for 4 1/2 months since I've been back. Hopefully, it continues."
Twins starter Nick Blackburn held New York hitless until the fifth before faltering. Rodriguez's hit ensured that Blackburn would finish with nothing better than a no-decision, matched up with a wild but effective A.J. Burnett.
"Our two horses have gone out and pitched gems," Rodriguez said. "It buys you an opportunity to do some special things late in games. A.J. probably had the best stuff he had all year today. He was phenomenal."
Making his first career postseason start, Burnett worked out of trouble, allowing eight Twins to reach base through his first five innings -- including Carlos Gomez, who committed a key baserunning gaffe in the fourth inning -- before his luck ran out in the sixth on Brendan Harris' pinch-hit triple.
No matter: Burnett's most important delivery was still yet to come. Having retreated to the clubhouse to ice his arm, Burnett was watching the television feed of the game when he felt the building begin to shake.
Instantly, Burnett knew to reach for the whipped cream, and by the time the lagging image showed the decisive pitch leaving Mijares' hand, the pie was already on its way to the dugout for a date with Teixeira's grinning face.
"A.J. told me, 'I finally got you,'" Teixeira said. "So if I'm going to get one this season, I'm glad I waited to the postseason. It was fun."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.