The Yankees beat the Twins 8-4 Friday night in a pretty crazy game that saw the lead change hands four times and seemed on the verge of getting out of hand early as A.J. Burnett's control completely vanished in the second inning.
Burnett inexcusably issued a bases loaded four-pitch walk to number nine hitter Nick Punto, he of the imposing .290 wOBA, to force in the first run of the game. Burnett managed to escape further damage and actually pitched reasonably well the rest of the way, going 6 2/3 innings and only giving up two earned runs. Burnett was in line for the win until Damaso Marte came in and not only let an inherited runner score yet again but gave up the lead on consecutive base hits to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
Now in fairness, that's going to happen fairly often -- these guys are arguably the best 1-2 punch in baseball, and Mauer reached base safely in every plate appearance -- including a game-tying solo home run in the fifth and game-tying double in the seventh -- until his very last one of the night against Mariano Rivera. Regardless, it doesn't make it any less frustrating, and at the current moment Damaso Marte inspires absolutely no confidence.
On the other end of the ledger Scott Baker was outstanding for the Twins until the wheels came off in the seventh. In the early going he was completely baffling the Yankees, throwing strike after strike, and ended up with a surprising nine Ks on the night. Ron Gardenhire did his team no favors by ordering Mark Teixeria intentionally walked to load the bases, and them bringing Matt Guerrier in to face Alex Rodriguez, who was apparently 4 for 6 with three home runs against Guerrier.
A-Rod then did exactly what every single person in the Stadium was hoping he'd do, blasting his -- and the Yankees' -- first grand slam of the season to pull the Yankees ahead 7-4. Given that I've been somewhat concerned about A-Rod's power outage but also had a feeling he'd go deep tonight, I went absolutely bonkers after his grand slam. Per the aforelinked ESPN game recap, A-Rod is 4 for 4 with two homers and 14 RBIs following international walks to Teixeira, according to STATS LLC. It also gave Alex 19 career grand slams, tied for third all-time with Eddie Murray, and behind Lou Gehrig (23) and Manny Ramirez (21).
Joba Chamberlain struck out the side in the top of the eighth, Francisco Cervelli added an RBI triple in the eighth, and Mo came in for a perfect ninth inning. Oh, and Brett Gardner -- who has gone all the way from someone I had no confidence in prior to the season to one of the at-bats I most look forward to, due in large part to leading the AL in pitches per plate appearance -- hit a big, game-tying solo jack in the fourth inning for his second home run of the year.
All in all an incredibly satisfying win -- not to mention the Yankees' 11th straight against Minnesota -- combined with a rare Tampa loss has the Yankees just one game behind the Rays. Not only that, but I even had a celebrity sighting after the game, bumping into RAB's Joe Pawlikowski on the 4.