Twins need to dent Yankees' bullpen
New York relievers have made it tough on Minnesota's lineup
NEW YORK -- Infallible for most of the regular season, the Yankees' bullpen resembled a world-champion boxer on Friday night: it took some hits, but it delivered the knockout punch necessary to hand the Twins a devastating 4-3, 11-inning loss in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
The Yankees' bullpen was perfect in Wednesday's Game 1 win, but it allowed two earned runs on nine hits and two walks in the final five innings Friday. While the Twins' bats proved they weren't overmatched by the daunting trio of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera, Minnesota was still bested by New York's deep relief corps.
"I'm not feeling too well right now," catcher Joe Mauer said of the loss during which Minnesota strand 17 baserunners. "I'm slowed up a bit. We had our chances to win. We had bases loaded and no outs [in the 11th inning]. We just couldn't get it done."
The Twins had their chances long before rookie reliever David Robertson shut the door on their offense in the 11th. After chasing starter A.J. Burnett from the game after six innings of one-run baseball, Carlos Gomez worked a two-out walk off Hughes in the eighth before Brendan Harris and Nick Punto posted back-to-back singles to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.
Hughes had a 1.40 ERA in 44 regular-season appearances in his first year in the bullpen and has been a critical bridge to Rivera. Lauded for his high-powered fastball, Hughes' breaking ball to No. 9 batter Punto was enough for manager Joe Girardi to insert Rivera an out early.
"It's ultimately my call," Hughes said of the decision to throw his offspeed pitch in a 2-2 count. "[Jorge] Posada put it down on the first pitch, and I thought it was a good idea.
"I executed pretty well. It was down, but kind of toward the middle of the plate. I would have liked to back door it a little more."
|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|
Hughes gave way to Rivera, who allowed an RBI single to leadoff man Denard Span -- one of two hits the legendary Yankees closer allowed over his 1 1/3 innings.
While Robertson's postseason debut stole the show, and rightfully so, the trio of Chamberlain, Hughes and Rivera will play a major role in the Yankees' fate in the rest of the series.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made his thoughts clear earlier this week: if you're going to beat the Yankees, you better do it early. While opposing teams are used to the daunting task of hitting Rivera's cutter, adding Chamberlain and Hughes to the mix is a dangerous weapon at Girardi's disposal.
"After we moved Joba into the 'pen for the postseason, it's almost turned into a six-inning game, we feel like," Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said.
In that case, it's down to six innings for the Twins, who at least can look to Friday's hits off Hughes, Rivera and Chamberlain -- who exited after Mauer's single in the seventh -- as a positive to carry into Game 3 on Sunday at 7:07 p.m. ET on TBS.
"I mean, it's tough," Jason Kubel said after being shut down by Rivera in the first game of the series. "But yeah, we've been able to get lucky every now and again against him."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.