Home runs from Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge fueled the New York Yankees to an 8-4 win in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
New York moves on to face the Cleveland Indians in the American League Divisional Series beginning on Thursday.
While the Yankees’ bats helped overcome an early 3-0 deficit after a horrific start from pitcher Luis Severino, their bullpen was pristine despite working 8.2 innings as they allowed just one run on five hits.
Severino’s arrival to the postseason was greeted rudely by Brian Dozier as the Twins’ lead-off man, who launched 34 home runs in 2017, started the Wild Card Game with a round-tripper to give Minnesota an immediate lead.
It was the first time in MLB history that the first batter of the first postseason game went deep.
Three batters later, it was 3-0 after Eddie Rosario lined a two-run shot over the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium to hush the Bronx crowd.
Severino would only last 1/3 of an inning before being relieved by Chad Green, who stopped the bleeding over the next two innings by striking out four-straight batters. For Severino, it was tied for the shortest postseason start in franchise history.
But the Yankees offense ensured that Severino would not be saddled with the loss, getting all three runs back in the bottom half of the first. After Gardner walked and Judge singled, Gregorius continued his career season into the postseason, sending an Ervin Santana offering deep into the right-center field stands.
The Yankees grabbed the lead in the bottom of the second when Gardner hooked a line drive around the right-field foul pole with no one on just seconds after Santana brushed him back with a high fastball that meandered inside. Santana’s night didn’t go much better than Severino’s as he lasted just two innings.
Green did run into trouble in the third, allowing a single to Jorge Polanco before walking Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler to load the bases. Manager Joe Girardi called on set-up man David Robertson to get out of the jam, but he would concede the tying run when Byron Buxton was able to beat out what would’ve been an inning-ending double play, allowing Polanco to score.
The onslaught of early scoring wouldn’t stop though as New York regained the lead off reliever Jose Berrios in the bottom of the third when Greg Bird singled home Gary Sanchez, who led off the inning with a double.
Judge extended the Yankees lead in the fourth with a home run of his own, the first of his postseason career and a two-run shot that just crept over the left-field wall.
While the Yankees built their lead, Robertson dominated after getting out of that third-inning jam, going 3.1 innings and allowing just three hits while striking out five. Robertson had never pitched more than 2.2 innings in a single outing through his first 10 years in the majors.
They added one more in the seventh to make it 8-4 when Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded.
New York’s reward for the Wild Card win? A date with the 102-win Indians, arguably the hottest team in baseball over the past two months with a pitching staff far deeper than anything Minnesota had to offer. Trevor Bauer will start Game 1 for Cleveland with AL Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber most likely going in Game 2.