The Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, at Yankee Stadium on Friday night to get back to .500 (36-36). They have gone 2-2 in their last four games but the previous time that they were .500 before they were 34-34 the Yankees went on to lose four out of five games.
The Yankees will look to win the next two games against the Twins to extend the winning streak to four games and give them momentum heading into the series against the Texas Rangers. Minnesota has the worst record in all of baseball so it is important that the Bronx Bombers take advantage of playing an opponent that they are better than.
Joe Girardi’s ideal scenario happened in this game as Masahiro Tanaka pitched six innings and kept the Yankees in the game, which led to the Big Three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman closing out the game while not allowing a hit.
Minnesota committed three errors, which helped Tanaka leave the game with a 4-3 lead. Carlos Beltran hit a double to left to score Brett Gardner and then Alex Rodriguez singled to left to score Beltran to tie the score at two. The Yankees scored two more runs in the fourth off of a sacrifice fly by Austin Romine and a RBI single to left by Rob Refsnyder.
Refsnyder, who will likely not be playing first as much with Mark Teixeira coming off the disabled list on Saturday, is hitting 6 for 17 (.353 with four runs scored, two doubles and two RBIs in his last five games. His average is an impressive .286 in 56 at-bats this season, which proves that he really knows how to produce offensively when given the opportunity.
Tanaka ended his start with his sixth quality start in his past seven. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven. He also had a higher swing and miss percentage than most starting pitchers. Tanaka had allowed two runs or less in five of his previous six starts, but he was able to make pitches when he needed to in this one.
“Tanaka has the ability to pitch and get big outs when he needs them,” Joe Girardi said.
Aaron Hicks, who was playing against his former team, hit a solo home run with one out in the 8th to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. His homer landed in about the second row in left field. That was his first right-handed homer of the year and third homer overall. He now has a .310 average with two RBIs in his last 11 games.
“I am feeling good on both sides,” Hicks said. “I feel like as the season goes on my at-bats are getting better.” He was hitting .205 on June 12 and his average is now up to .217 and he has at least one hit in six of the last seven games he has started.
Tanaka got Kurt Suzuki to ground into a double play to end the sixth inning in what ended up being his last batter because Betances was ready to come into the came with the Yankees leading. Betances had a 10-pitch inning in the seventh, and he got Robbie Grossman to strike out on a nasty curve that bounced before getting to the plate.
Miller pitched the 8th inning and came into the game having struck out 50 percent of the batters he had faced. That is an outstanding ratio and only two relief pitchers have done that before. His fastball and slider combo worked to perfection in the eighth as he retired the side in order and struck out the dangerous Brian Dozier to lower his ERA to 1.14.
Aroldis Chapman struck out the first two batters on six pitches and all of the pitches were above 100 mph. He would strikeout out the side on a 90 mph off speed pitch. He threw a circle change that completely froze Suzuki to end the game.
In the ninth inning, Chapman threw 10 pitches that were 101 mph or faster and then his 11th pitch was 90 mph. There is basically not another relief pitcher in baseball who could have 11 consecutive pitches like the ones that Chapman had.
“They are going to have their lumps but I feel pretty good about them,” Girardi said about the Big Three.
In 10 games Betances, Miller and Chapman have appeared in together before this game they had a combined 1.48 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Those numbers are even more impressive after Friday’s game.
The Yankees play their next 16 games until the All-Star break against teams outside of the AL East, which is a positive for the Yankees since they are 10-17 against AL East opponents this season. Saturday’s game will be at 1:05 p.m., and Michael Pineda will get the start for the Yankees. He will look to rebound from allowing three runs on one homer and six hits in 5.1 innings in his last start.