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Updated: April 7th, 2011 3:22pm
Twins Daily: Yankees bullpen shuts door late, preserves series victory

Twins Daily: Yankees bullpen shuts door late, preserves series victory

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera put down the last six Minnesota Twins hitters in order to  preserve a 4-3 win on Thursday afternoon for the New York Yankees, who took two of three in the rain-shortened series -- and left the Twins without second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the eve of their home opener.

The skinny

The Twins cut the deficit in half in the top of the seventh, when Alexi Casilla was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on the throw and scored on Denard Span's groundout.

But Joe Mauer's leadoff single was wasted in the eighth, and then the Yankees gave the ball to Rivera, who got Jason Kubel on a flyout to center, Danny Valencia on a drive to deep left-center and Delmon Young on a bouncer to short.

Turning point

With a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano walked leadoff hitter Alex Rodriguez. Robinson Cano followed with a single, and after Jorge Posada struck out looking, Andrew Jones yanked a double down the left-field corner that tied the score at 2.

Then, Liriano caught a pair of bad breaks.

Russell Martin's ground ball to first base came off the bat so slowly that first baseman Justin Morneau had no chance to cut down Cano with the go-ahead run at the plate. Then, with two outs, Liriano broke Brett Gardner's bat with a 2-1 fastball -- but the ball blooped into right field to score Jones and make it a two-run Yankees lead.

Numbers game

97, 53: Pitches and strikes Liriano threw over five innings in which he struck out five and allowed four runs on four hits.

8: Walks in 9 1/3 innings for Liriano, who issued five in a loss on Saturday at Toronto and three more on Thursday. Only 97 of his 187 pitches (51.9%) have been strikes.

2: Questionable third-strike calls against Mauer in the game's first three innings. A foul tip clearly one-hopped to Yankees C Russell Martin in the first, and home-plate umpire Larry Vanover rung up Mauer on a 3-2 fastball that appeared to be outside in the third.

3: Doubles in the top of the fourth by the Twins, who took a 2-1 lead on the strength of two-baggers by Morneau, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, plus a Michael Cuddyer sacrifice fly.

5: Strikeouts in six innings for Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, who allowed two runs on ive hits in six innings.

Health watch

• Nishioka left the game in the seventh inning after Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher slid hard into Nishioka's left leg. X-rays revealed a fractured left fibula, and Nishioka was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Luke Hughes was promoted from Class-AAA Rochester.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (biceps soreness) remains day to day.

On deck

Bumped back two days because of rain, right-hander Carl Pavano (0-1, 15.75 ERA) will try to bounce back from an Opening Day start in which he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on six hits -- including three homers -- in only four innings. Largely because it's the home opener, Mauer once again will be behind the plate, even though Drew Butera is expected to be Pavano's primary catcher. In his only start against the A's last season, Pavano allowed two runs on 10 hits and struck out four over 6 1/3 innings of a 4-3 win on Aug. 13 at Target Field.

The Athletics beat Toronto 2-1 on Thursday afternoon to enter the series with a 2-4 record (1-2 on the road).

A former second-round pick acquired from Arizona in a 2007 trade involving Dan Haren, left-hander Brett Anderson (0-0, 1.50) allowed one run and struck out six in a strong first start but also threw 108 pitches against Seattle. The 23-year-old was highly efficient in 112 1/3 innings over 19 starts last season, his second in the big leagues, striking out 75 against only 22 walks and posting a 2.80 ERA in 112 1/3 innings. In three career starts against the Twins, Anderson is 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

Coming up

• Saturday: vs. Oakland, 6:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.59) vs. LHP Gio Gonzales (1-0, 1.29).
• Sunday: vs. Oakland, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (0-0, 5.14) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 4.50).
• Monday: Off.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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