MINNEAPOLIS – Only those not paying attention to the 2016 Twins felt the Yankees’ four-run deficit after six innings Saturday afternoon was insurmountable.
For those who had been following closely, what happened next seemed inevitable.
Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Ricky Nolasco, who had shut the Bombers out over the first six frames, in the seventh and Carlos Beltran blasted a two-run shot off Kevin Jepsen in the eighth to tie it.
The Yankees further battered the Twins’ taxed and terrible bullpen in the ninth, with Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-run single the big hit, which paved the way for a 7-6 victory in front of 30,760 at Target Field.
The Yankees (34-34), somewhat depressingly from their standpoint, have just one more game here against the Twins (20-48), who may struggle to win 50 games this season. On the other hand, the Bombers get three more against them next weekend at the Stadium.
After lefthander Fernando Abad loaded the bases with none out in the ninth, righthander Ryan Pressly came on to face pinch hitter Starlin Castro. Castro struck out but Ellsbury, with the infield in, punched a ground single to right to make it 6-4. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly made it 7-4.
Aroldis Chapman allowed a pair of two-out solo homers - to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki - in the ninth to make it 7-6 but struck out pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe notched his 13th save in 14 chances.
Inconsistent righthander Michael Pineda again was that for the Yankees, allowing four runs – three earned – and six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
Nolasco, who didn’t exactly tote Cy Young candidate numbers into the afternoon – 3-4 with a 5.12 ERA – allowed two runs and eight hits over seven innings.
On this day, the righthander, signed to a four-year, $49-million deal before the 2014 season, allowed two runs and eight hits over seven innings.
He had a 4-0 lead in the seventh before the 695th homer of A-Rod’s career made it 4-2. Beltran’s team-best 18th homer of the season in the eighth tied it at 4-4.
Andrew Miller allowed a leadoff single to Eduardo Nunez in the eighth but, after a sacrifice bunt by Danny Santana, the lefthander struck out Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier, who already had a single and triple in the game.
Then came the wild ninth that included a walk, a bunt single, a passed ball, an intentional walk, a wild pitch and Ellsbury’s single.
After Pineda retired the Twins in order on seven pitches in the first, the Twins touched him for a run in the second. Max Kepler doubled off the wall in right with one out and went to third on Byung Ho Park’s fly to the track in center. Eduardo Escobar then sent a 1-and-2 fastball back up the middle for an RBI single that made it 1-0.
Pineda retired five straight after the Escobar single, three of them on strikeouts. That streak ended with one out in the fourth when Dozier stroked a triple into the corner in right. Pineda struck out Kepler looking on a well-placed full-count fastball that came in low and outside, but left a first-pitch fastball up to the next batter, Park, who swatted it over the big wall in right for his 12th homer of the season, the two-run shot making it 3-0. Park had been 4-for-49 with RISP this season coming into the at-bat.
Pineda’s afternoon ended in the sixth. He struck out Joe Mauer but Dozier lined a single to left and stole second. Kepler then smashed a grounder to first where Ike Davis made a nice stop. He made a good flip to Pineda covering, but the pitcher missed the bag for an error, leaving runners at the corners and one out. With Park coming up, Girardi made the call for righthander Anthony Swarzak. Park lifted a fly to short center where Ellsbury, who doesn’t have a good arm, made the catch and threw wide of the plate trying to get Dozier, the run pushing the lead to 4-0.
Swarzak struck out two over 1 2/3 scoreless innings.