5th Inning: Up to the Yankees’ Bullpen, Now
It took a parade of relievers but the Yankees are through five innings with a 2-0 lead.
Jake Odorizzi was dominant in the top half of the fifth. He retired Gio Urshela on a fly ball to center, got D.J. LeMahieu to ground out softly to the catcher and finished things off by inducing a fly out from Aaron Judge. The entire half-inning took Odorizzi just nine pitches, but his day appears to be done based on the hugs and high-fives he was receiving in the dugout.
The bottom half of the inning went much slower. The Yankees replaced Luis Severino with Tommy Kahnle and Kahnle allowed a leadoff single to Jake Cave. Max Kepler hit a screaming out to center and Jorge Polanco softly flied out to shallow left, and that was it for Kahnle who was replaced by Adam Ottavino in anticipation of Nelson Cruz coming to the plate.
Ottavino walked Cruz on four pitches, failing to get his devastating slider into the strike zone, and Manager Aaron Boone made a switch to Chad Green. The aggressiveness worked, as Green got out of the inning thanks to a nifty defensive play where a sliding Gleyber Torres got to a ball in shallow right field and D.J. LeMahieu made a nice play to catch Torres’s throw at first.
With Severino’s day officially done, it is safe to say this was the best postseason start of his career, in quality if not quantity. He held the Twins scoreless through four innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. He threw 83 pitches, 52 of which were strikes.
If Odorizzi is done as well, he was good but not quite good enough. He allowed two earned runs over five innings, allowing five hits and striking out five.
4th Inning: Yankees on Cruise Control
After some drama in the second and third innings, the fourth was awfully uneventful. But the Yankees might be dipping into their bullpen going forward.
Giancarlo Stanton got his first hit of the series by way of Max Kepler having positioned himself far too deep in center only to have Stanton’s soft fly ball land in front of him. Stanton’s time on base did not last long, as Gleyber Torres grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play that zipped around the infield at lightning pace. Gary Sanchez singled on a liner to left but Jake Odorizzi got the Twins out of the inning by striking out Didi Gregorius with a high fastball that made the Yankees’ shortstop look foolish.
Luis Severino retired Luis Arraez on a grounder to short, struck out Miguel Sano on seven pitches and got some help from D.J. LeMahieu, who snagged a liner down the line by Marwin Gonzalez to end the inning.
Severino is up to 83 pitches, which is his highest total of this season, and with activity in the Yankees’ bullpen, his day is likely done.
3rd Inning: Yankees Tack on Another
Luis Severino has the Yankees leading by 2-0 after three innings, and the only question is how long he can stay in this game.
Leading off the top half of the inning, Gio Urshela lined a ball to left that a diving Jake Cave could not quite corral. The ball skipped all the way to the wall, but Urshela pulled up at second for a double. He advanced to third on a groundout by D.J. LeMahieu, and after Aaron Judge struck out looking on a low four-seamer, Urshela raced home on a chopper by Brett Gardner that shot past Miguel Sano at third base. Jake Odorizzi got out of the inning when Edwin Encarnacion flied out to center but not before he had put his team in a 2-0 hole.
Luis Severino again flirted with disaster. With two outs and two runners on base, both via single, Severino got out of the jam by striking out Mitch Garver with a 98 mile-per-hour fastball.
Severino is up to 66 pitches. The most he threw during the regular season was 80.
2nd Inning: Yankees Take the Lead
The Yankees have a 1-0 lead, and absolutely no one should be shocked that it came via home run. But the story of the inning was Luis Severino wriggling out of a self-induced jam in the bottom half of the inning.
With one out in the top half of the inning, Gleyber Torres had gotten the scoring started by lining a ball 376 feet to left center, just clearing the outstretched glove of Jake Cave. The Twins challenged Torres’s first career postseason homer, saying there had been fan interference, but Gary Cederstrom, tonight’s home plate umpire, confirmed the dinger.
The Yankees did absolutely nothing else against Jake Odorizzi. Leading off, Giancarlo Stanton took a pair of mighty cuts before meekly waving at strike three. After Torres’s home run, Gary Sanchez popped out to shortstop and Odorizzi got out of the inning when Didi Gregorius grounded out.
Staked to a lead in the bottom half of the inning, Severino immediately allowed a screaming double off the right field wall by Eddie Rosario. He walked Mitch Garver on five pitches and then gave up a single to Luis Arraez that loaded the bases with no outs. That brought up the powerful Miguel Sano, who, on the eighth pitch of a tense at-bat, skied an infield fly that was reeled in by D.J. LeMahieu for the first out of the inning. Severino struck out Marwin Gonzalez with a vicious slider and then ended the inning by freezing Jake Cave on a slider.
The Houdini act was impressive, but the Yankees are likely concerned that their fragile ace is already up to 45 pitches.
1st Inning: All Quiet in Minnesota
It was an uneventful first inning as each team had one batter reach base, but there was never a real scoring threat.
Jake Odorizzi got off to a strong start in the top half of the inning by striking out D.J. LeMahieu on four pitches, blowing three consecutive four-seamers past the All-Star infielder. Aaron Judge appeared to fly out but was awarded first base via catcher’s interference, and he proceeded to get to second on a wild pitch. But Odorizzi recovered nicely, striking out Brett Gardner and getting Edwin Encarnacion to fly out to left to end the threat.
Luis Severino was a bit shakier at first in the bottom half of the inning, but still put up a zero. He walked the leadoff batter, Max Kepler, on five pitches, and needed seven pitches to retire Jorge Polanco on a soft fly ball to left. But then he induced a double-play ball from Nelson Cruz that ended the inning.
The Yankees will be trotting out the same starting lineup that generated 18 runs over the first two games of the series.
D.J. LeMahieu, 1B
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, CF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gio Urshela, 3B
The Twins, going against a right-hander, will go with the same lineup they used in Game 2.
Max Kepler, CF
Jorge Polanco, SS
Nelson Cruz, DH
Eddie Rosario, RF
Mitch Garver, C
Luis Arraez, 2B
Miguel Sano, 3B
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
Jake Cave, LF
Pregame Story Lines
Much has been made of the Yankees’ starting rotation being bolstered by the return of its ace, Luis Severino. But there is some risk inherent in having a pitcher who is still working his way into shape being counted upon to anchor a team. Severino did not face major league hitters until the Yankees’ 152nd game of the year, and got just 12 innings over three starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Severino’s regular season workload was the fourth-lightest by a pitcher asked to make a postseason start — Virgil Trucks holds the major league record with just five and a third regular season innings before starting two World Series games for the Detroit Tigers in 1945.
Severino pitched well in those 12 innings, with a 1.50 E.R.A. and 17 strikeouts, and he was terrific for most of the 2018 season. But there is also the matter of his rocky postseason résumé. The 25-year-old has started six playoff games and has gotten past the fifth inning in just one of them. Perhaps the lowest moment of his career was the 2017 wild card game against the Twins, when he was pulled after allowing four hits and a walk before recording a second out. When asked about that performance on Sunday, Severino showed a sense of humor by smiling and saying, “I don’t even remember that.”
Severino will be going up against Jake Odorizzi, who is charged with ending Minnesota’s record streak of 15 consecutive losses in playoff games. Odorizzi would seemingly be the ideal man for the job, considering he allowed three or fewer runs in all but one of his 13 starts after the All-Star break. The only problem? The lone exception was a disaster of a start against the Yankees on July 24 in which he allowed nine runs in four innings.