Same old story: Yankees finish off sweep of Twins with 6-1 win in Bronx
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NEW YORK -- The gorgeous new stadium. The record payroll. The veteran additions and the early clinch and the expectations that this time, finally, something might be different in October.
In the end, everything stayed the same for the Minnesota Twins.
Their 12th consecutive playoff loss came not with heartbreak but a hammer -- a 6-1 Bronx bludgeoning that ended this American League Division Series in three games, sent the New York Yankees to the next level and left the Twins where they were before.
Regular-season darlings. Postseason disappointments. Again.
"We just didn't get it done," manager Ron Gardenhire said in the bowels of Yankee Stadium, with Twins owner Jim Pohlad and family watching from nearby.
"We haven't gotten it done. And we have to do some more searching here in trying to figure out how to get it done because we definitely, definitely can do it. We know we can. We know we're a good baseball team. You just have to put it together at the right time, and we just haven't done it."
Left-hander Brian Duensing lasted all of 3 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs.
The offense was a no-show, failing to advance a runner past second base until Kerry Wood relieved flawless Phil Hughes, clowned away a run in the eighth and departed with the bases full.
Boone Logan and David Robertson set down Jason Kubel and Delmon Young, respectively, to end that threat. Then, Mariano Rivera worked a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the same result -- defeat -- the Twins have met in every postseason game since their 2-0 win at the old Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS.
"It's the same feeling," Kubel said. "A good year, and then early exits, and we keep saying, 'Well, next year we'll get these guys,' and that's happened a couple times and it hasn't worked out. Once again, we'll go in there in the offseason, thinking the same thing, and next year we'll get back here and try to fare a little better."
For now, the Twins are one shy of the Boston Red Sox's big-league record of 13 consecutive playoff losses that started with Bill Buckner's infamous error in the 1986 World Series.
The Twins never came that close to victory in this series. New York won 6-4 and 5-2 at Target Field, then rode an exceptional start by the right-hander Hughes (seven innings, four hits, no runs, six strikeouts) and homers by Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher to a Game 3 runaway in front of 50,840 partisan.
"I just tried to stay relaxed and told myself to pitch to contact," said Duensing, who didn't get a single swinging strike among his 58 pitches.
"Contact isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is when Thames is hitting it over the fence."
Robinson Cano tripled over center fielder Denard Span's head to lead off the bottom of the second inning and scored on Jorge Posada's one-out rip through the left side. In the third, Swisher doubled to the gap in left-center field on Mark Teixeira's single off the left-field wall.
The Twins didn't have a hit until Span's leadoff single in the top of the fourth, and that was erased on the next pitch when Orlando Hudson bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. Then, the Yankees broke open the game and chased Duensing in the bottom half, with Thames blasting a two-run homer to right field and Curtis Granderson scoring on a sacrifice fly that made it 5-0.
"I felt like I was locating well, in and out," Duensing said. "I was up in the zone a little bit, and every time I was, they took advantage."
Swisher led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo blast to right-center off Scott Baker, and the shutout continued until Danny Valencia led off the top of the eighth with a double and came home on Orlando Hudson's line-drive single to right.
Mauer drew a walk to load the bases for Kubel, who popped out to third base on the first pitch against Logan -- he also struck out with two on to end the sixth to finish the series 0-for-8 -- and Robertson got Young on a flyout to center to end the Twins' best threat.
"For whatever reason, we just weren't able to get that big hit," said Michael Cuddyer, who finished 0-for-4 and was 2-for-11 in the series. "You have to give their pitchers credit, because they made big pitches when they had to do as well. But we can hit big pitches. We just didn't in this series."
Now the Yankees -- who also bounced the Twins from the division series in 2003, '04 and '09 -- will take the next two days to rest up before facing Texas or Tampa Bay in the AL Championship Series.
The Twins will take a long plane ride back to the Twin Cities and try to figure out how a team that won 94 games -- and a season that seemed so different -- could meet such a familiar end.
"It's not much fun," said Gardenhire, who received a huge as he left the podium.
"This is not much fun at all to come up here, being knocked out, knowing your season is over with again after three games in the playoffs. We've had that a few times.
"You tip your hat to the competition. They're pretty good. But we felt we made some strides over the winter, and we did. ... The last game should be a win -- that's when you win the World Series. That's our goal. It continues to be our goal. Will never end being our goal."