CC, Yanks roll to road rout of Twins
Every starter gets a hit as Yanks left-hander cruises
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even for the recently high-flying Yankees, the thought of a six-game road trip against the Twins and Angels was enough to furrow a few brows. A stumble before the All-Star break had the potential to do more than arrest this team's progress. It had the potential to reverse it.
But in 3 1/2 hours of convincing baseball on Tuesday, CC Sabathia and the Bronx Bombers reaffirmed that the past two weeks have not been a fluke. They hit as well as they pitched, they pitched as well as they hit, and they bundled all of that into a 10-2 victory at the Metrodome.
"That's what you want to do," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You want to win the first game and just get off on the right foot, because these are tough places to play, Minnesota and Anaheim. To have a game like that and start the road trip like that, it's very nice."
In context, Sabathia's sharp effort was almost unnecessary. The Yankees led the entire way, knocked Twins starter Scott Baker out in the fourth inning and generally imposed their will upon one of the American League's most recently successful franchises. Every Yankees starter other than Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon drove in runs -- and those two both reached base twice in their first three at-bats.
"They got up so early," Twins outfielder Denard Span said. "It was almost like snatching your heart out. So many runs, you could tell [Sabathia] just got confident. I think he knew we were taking strike one. He'd get ahead of us. Once he got ahead of us, it was kind of hard to put aggressive swings on it."
And so Sabathia thrived, allowing just three hits in seven innings. Coming off a start in which he was tagged for six runs when he couldn't keep his mid-90s heat down in the zone, Sabathia managed to locate his pitches -- an unusual amount of them breaking balls -- and keep the Twins off-balance in a dome that has given him fits throughout the years.
Sabathia's main problem with the Metrodome is its climate control, which makes it difficult for him "to get a sweat." And on this night, that problem was compounded by the fact that the Yankees kept hitting, forcing Sabathia to don an outer layer and sit on the bench.
It was a sacrifice that Sabathia, now tied for the team lead in wins, did not mind making.
"I don't mind long innings," Sabathia said. "Especially when we score runs."
And they did -- in bunches and with regularity. Hideki Matsui singled home the first run off Baker in the first, before Francisco Cervelli and Mark Teixeira both drove in runs in the third -- the latter on the second of Teixeira's four hits.
Two more runs scored in the fourth, the inning that knocked Baker out of the game -- and it might have been quite a few more had Carlos Gomez not made a spectacular catch over the wall in center field to turn Alex Rodriguez's would-be grand slam into a sacrifice fly.
Even after Baker left the game, the Yankees kept pounding on Twins pitching, scoring five times in the sixth off relievers Brian Duensing and R.A. Dickey. Brett Gardner and Cervelli highlighted that rally, tripling and doubling in succession. And Robinson Cano singled home two runs, snapping an 0-for-22 skid with runners in scoring position.
"I was checking the computer what I was doing wrong when I had men on base," Cano said. "As long as I don't swing at bad pitches and I don't have bad at-bats, I'm OK."
Cano and the Yankees did little of either on Tuesday, swatting aside the Twins with all the apparent effort one could expect from a team that has now won 11 of its last 13 games. In this air-conditioned dome, the Yankees hardly broke a sweat.
The Twins had admittedly been waiting for this rematch ever since the Yankees swept a four-game series at Yankee Stadium by a combined margin of four runs. But on this night, the Yankees were the ones that came ready to spring.
Girardi's explanation hinged on the age-old baseball adage that momentum is the next day's starting pitcher. And so the Yankees, leaning on Sabathia in the series opener, flew to Minnesota with plenty of it.
Just because they won Tuesday's game, of course, doesn't mean the Yankees will thrive on this six-game trip. But one-sixth of the way through, they have no reason to suspect otherwise.
"It's great, a great way to start off the road trip," Girardi said. "We needed it."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.