Teixeira's Game 1 blast strengthens Yankees' headlock on Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins' quest for Yankee exorcism hit a snag in the top of the seventh inning on Wednesday night when Mark Teixeira hit a two-run blast off Jesse Crain to lead New York to a 6-4 victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
The Twins now trail 1-0 in the five-game series against a team they've beat just 18 times in 72 tries under manager Ron Gardenhire.
"Obviously it wasn't a good pitch. He hit it out," Crain said about the slider he hung to Teixeira. "But it's a pitch I've been throwing good all year, and that one I left out and he was able to get enough of it to keep it fair. Obviously it's unfortunate. You pitch 70-something times a year, it's not going to work out every time. Unfortunately it happened in that game. It's frustrating."
Teixeira's home run -- his second off Crain this season -- came after Nick Swisher slapped a one-out single to right field. The first baseman then worked a full count before getting his bat out in front of a Crain slider and belting a towering fly ball that snuck just inside the right-field foul pole.
"Game-winning home runs, there's nothing better," Teixeira said.
"When you have a chance to put your team up, especially on the road against a very good Minnesota Twins team, it was a great feeling."
The home run sucked the life out of a record Target Field crowd of 42,032, and it ensured a quiet Twins clubhouse after the game.
"There is disappointment," Gardenhire said. "We had a lot of big opportunities and big at-bats, and we couldn't come up with another big hit."
"I think our guys are fine," the manager added. "Disappointed right now. We had a ballgame and it got away from us."
Early on, Twins starter Francisco Liriano showed no signs of nerves. He buzzed through the first inning, striking out Derek Jeter on a high fastball, retiring Swisher on a liner to Orlando Hudson, and inducing a tapper back to the mound off the bat of Teixeira.
Liriano ran into some trouble in the second and third innings, but eventually settled down to retire 10 in a row.
After that, however, the southpaw hit a wall.
Liriano struck out Swisher to begin the sixth, but served up a double to Teixeira, then bounced a wild pitch to the backstop to put a runner on third with one out. The next batter, Alex Rodriguez, coaxed a walk, and Robinson Cano singled to right, scoring Teixeira to cut the Twins' lead to 3-1 at the time.
Two batters later, Posada singled to right to score a run, and Curtis Granderson tripled off the wall in deep right center, scoring two more runs to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
"In the sixth he got pitches up and they didn't miss it," Gardenhire said. "I think he still had everything going.
"The ball was darting and diving and the breaking ball was good. He just ran into a tough inning and couldn't get a third out. He had two or three hitter to get the third out and couldn't finish it off."
Cameras spotted Gardenhire consoling a dejected Liriano in the dugout after he exited.
"I was kind of upset," Liriano said, "so I didn't hear a word he told me."
After Liriano left, the Twins temporarily tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning when Danny Valencia drew a bases loaded walk off Sabathia.
The Twins also managed to threaten in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score 6-4 after Teixeira's home run, when they put runners on second and third with two outs against reliever Kerry Wood. Yankees manager Joe Girardi then summoned Mariano Rivera, who induced a splintered-bat groundout by Denard Span to end the inning.
The Twins jumped out to an early second-inning lead when Michael Cuddyer laced a CC Sabathia fastball on a frozen rope over the fence in center field -- only the fourth home run hit to straightaway center at Target Field all season.
In the bottom of the third inning, Orlando Hudson made a heads-up baserunning play when he moved from first to third on a tapper to first baseman Mark Teixeira by Joe Mauer. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was late to cover the base as well.
Hudson scored soon after on a pass ball that bounced by catcher Jorge Posada, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead at the time.
"You're never over the hump with these guys, man," Hudson said.
"There's no need for us to sit here and talk about the Twins curse against the Yankees. It's a new year. But hey, we've got to battle."
Game 2 is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. on Thursday night. RHP Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75) is scheduled to face LHP Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28).