ALDS Game 2: Yankees clobber Twins behind Didi, Tanaka

Curtain call. (MLB Gifs)

It’s Yankees-Twins. What did you expect?

For the 12th straight time, the Yankees topped Minnesota in the postseason and they didn’t mess around this time, clobbering the Twins for an 8-2 victory in ALDS Game 2.

The Bombers now have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and will have three chances to take the series, starting with Game 3 on Monday in Minnesota. But before we turn our attention to the road, let’s appreciate the dominant Yankees win Saturday.

The Yankees lineup broke the Twins in Game 2

It took all of two batters for the night to turn for Twins starter Randy Dobnak. Facing DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, he gave up a double and was worked for a walk. The rookie seemed tentative and the crowd was on him right away.

The Yankees didn’t waste the opportunity. After a flyout advanced LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnación lined a single into left for a lead the Bombers wouldn’t surrender. A Giancarlo Stanton double play ended the rally (he looks a little slow out of the box, right? I might be imagining things), but the Bombers kept the pressure on.

After two two-out singles in the second inning failed to score, Judge led off with a single in the third. Brett Gardner promptly walked and Encarnación singled again, basically to the same spot.

There, Rocco Baldelli had to admit defeat on the Dobnak experiment. The rookie couldn’t handle the moment and with a 1-0 deficit and the bases juiced, he called on Tyler Duffey.

Duffey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a long sacrifice fly to Stanton and an RBI single to Gleyber Torres before hitting Gary Sánchez with a pitch. He got to two strikes on all three hitters and was now down 3-0 with the bases again loaded.

Enter Didi Gregorius.

THAT’S YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP!

The Didi Grand Slam

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Remember when there was talk about Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius not starting in October? LOL. Aaron Boone had to answer questions about whether he was healthy before this game. I think those questions can officially go away with his third inning.

With the bases juiced and a 3-0 lead, Didi immediately got behind 0-2. After tossing a ball, Duffey left a fastball over the heart of the plate and … GREGORIUS WAS ABSOLUTE BOX OFFICE.

OK, that video was good. But let’s get the proper angle.

The pause at home plate. The “Oh, did I do that?” expression. The nonchalant bat flip. Didi taught a class in how to pimp a homer with that celebration. That was a special moment. Not his top October moment, mind you, but this is in the pantheon of overall Gregorius moments.

Postseason #TanakaTime

From the first batter of the game, it was clear that Masahiro Tanaka was sharp. The right-hander once again saved his best for October and came out firing with sliders and splitters that flabbergasted the Twins.

His only jam came in the first inning. He hit Jorge Polanco with a misplaced slider and gave up an infield single to Nelson Cruz. It would have been a double play if it didn’t deflect off Tanaka.

No worries, though: Tanaka promptly got a 3-6-1 double play off Eddie Rosario’s bat. (Sidebar: Tanaka should have received a Gold Glove by this point in his career. He’s a superb fielder and covering first there was just another example).

After that, he retired the next seven batters he faced before walking Cruz in the fourth inning.

The Twins strung together two singles after Cruz’s walk in the fourth to score a run, but Tanaka focused in to strike out Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano (Sano was just waving at anything. Not a good AB). Arraez struck out twice in a game just four times all season, but Tanaka got him in each of his first two at-bats.

Tanaka finished his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Even with an 8-1 lead, Boone didn’t want to mess around and have Tanaka go through the order a third time.

In the end, Tanaka tossed 83 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced 19 batters. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He got 16 swings and misses and threw just 16 fastballs (19.3 percent of his pitches), opting for 35 sliders and 28 splitters. It was vintage #TANAK.

Offense tepid after Didi slam

The Yankees got another run in the third inning. Devin Smeltzer took over after Duffey walked LeMahieu and allowed back-to-back singles to Judge and Gardner. Boom. 8-0 lead.

From there, the left-hander stifled the Bombers for 3 1/3 innings. He couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning as he scattered a couple hits and three walks, but he settled the game down, though the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t let the Twins back in the game.

Combined with sterling mop-up relief against the Yankees in July, Smeltzer passed a silent audition for a Game 4 (if necessary) start. Unless Jose Berrios goes on short rest, it would probably be a bullpen game started by Smeltzer if the Twins make it to Game 4.

Still, the Twins were unable to get through a single inning without a Yankees hitter reaching base. Though the Bombers took their foot off the gas, they kept the Minnesota relievers working.

Leftovers

  • The Yankees tied their franchise postseason record for runs in an inning with the seven-run third.
  • Can we talk about Aaron Judge? Oh my goodness. After going 1-for-3 with two walks in Game 1, he went 2-for-3 with two walks in Game 2. All the hits were singles, but he is incredibly locked in and just keeps the lineup moving from the No. 2 spot. Between him and LeMahieu, the Yankees are giving themselves multiple runners on every time the lineup turns over.
  • The Yankees’ top relievers cleaned up. Tommy Kahnle went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against the 2-3-4 hitters for the Twins, then Adam Ottavino pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless seventh.
  • From there, Tyler Lyons struck out two in a scoreless inning and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a run with two outs in the ninth.
  • Stanton went 0-for-2 with a walk and sac fly. He again was lifted for a pinch runner (Cameron Maybin) and played just six innings. Keeping him fresh when he’s not 100 percent is possible when you’re up by seven runs.
  • Encarnación, Gregorius, Judge and Gio Urshela each had two hits while LeMahieu and Gardner each had a hit and a walk. Sánchez walked and was hit by a pitch. Encarnación and Gregorius also walked. Everyone got in on the action.
  • The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the ALDS? The 2017 Yankees. Before them, it was the 2012 Giants topping the Reds after blowing Games 1 and 2 at home.

The Yankees have a day off and will then try to close out the series in Minnesota on Monday night. It’ll be Luis Severino against Jake Odorizzi on FS1 with an 8:40 p.m. start. Late-night Yankees!

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9 Comments

  1. Elton Cod

    I heard that Joe wants to go to the Mets. I feel like that’s where he belongs.

    If Robinson T. is still alive tell him I said hello.

    World series or bust, Hal is cheap.

  2. CountryClub

    I think you’re reading Didi wrong there. IMO, that was pure relief on his part. We all know about his struggles this year. I think he was just thrilled to come through.

    • Steven Tydings

      Quite possible. I enjoyed it all the same. He needed that so much.

  3. Of course, anything can happen in baseball but it’s really difficult to project a Twinkies turnaround after these last two games-if Sevy comes out throwing darts on Monday it could be a rout. Odirizzi has had a good year but he’s essentially a 5 inning pitcher and the Twins bullpen hasn’t been good at all (except for Smeltzer and he isn’t going to pitch on Monday after 60+ pitches tonight)

    • Smeltzer will definitely pitch if they need him Monday. Regardless, he pitched under zero pressure in garbage time last night. His stuff looked mediocre. The Twins entire pitching staff looks overwhelmed and intimidated.

  4. Dan A.

    Super win! Let’s finish them off on Monday!

    Mild criticism: id like to see a little more length from the SPs. These games have been blowouts, so it hasn’t mattered. But, I don’t feel comfortable using more than the big 4 relievers in a tight game. A little bit more from the SPs would help.

    • CountryClub

      I agree. Last night seemed like a perfect game to let Tanaka go another inning. Quick 5th inning, big lead. If not then, when?

      • RetroRob

        Per my note below, why would they deviate from the plan they built before the season even started? What do the gain beyond Tanaka weakening his third time through as the numbers show he does and then perhaps calling in a reliever mid-inning. I much prefer them deploying their pen while also giving Happ, Lyons and Lasagna an inning, then simply stretching a starter another inning, especially with two off days in this series. They have it all mapped out.

    • RetroRob

      You’re not going to see that. Maybe from Paxton if he’s really on. Maybe. Severino normally could,but he’s only stretched out for five innings, maybe six. The Yankees built their team for the postseason knowing it’s five innings from the starters, and four from the relievers. They’ve even been able to work in some of the second-tier pitchers. They rested the pen throughout September, and none of their relievers have been stressed in the first two games. They have a plan and they’ve stuck to it.

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