The disappointment for the Yankees, of course, is that the schedule gives them only one more date with the Twins this season.
That will be Sunday, and then it’s back to the major-league portion of the schedule.
The Yankees did take care of business Saturday afternoon against baseball’s worst team, eventually squeezing out a 2-1 victory in front of 40,075 at the Stadium, and for that, they deserve some credit.
After all, it beats the alternative.
But after Sunday’s contest, the Yankees (37-36), who improved to 5-1 this season against the Twins (23-51), will face the AL West-leading Rangers for four games starting Monday, then hit the road for 10 games before the All-Star break.
“We believe in ourselves,” said Carlos Beltran, who went 2-for-4, including a two-out single in the fifth inning that tied it at 1-1 and gave him 53 RBIs. “I cannot see the future but I can tell you what I see right now, and right now I feel like we have a good team. We just need to be consistent.”
When Joe Girardi is able to deploy the three cannons in the back of his bullpen — as he’s done in each of the last three games — the Yankees actually do resemble a good team.
Dellin Betances struck out one in the seventh and Andrew Miller fanned two in the eighth to set up Aroldis Chapman, giving the trio a string of 24 batters retired in the last three games — and no balls hit out of the infield.
Chapman extended both streaks to 26 before allowing a two-out single to leftfield by Joe Mauer in the ninth. Then he struck out Brian Dozier — who had homered off Michael Pineda in the second inning — on three pitches, the last a 100-mph fastball, to notch his 15th save in 16 chances. It was the trio’s 15th strikeout in nine innings in the three games.
The Yankees improved to 3-24 in games in which they have scored two or fewer runs and on Sunday will try to go two games over .500 for the first time since they were 4-2.
Chapman, who reached 104 mph Friday night, was given a lead to protect after Alex Rodriguez started an eighth-inning rally with an infield single against righty Ryan Pressly. Aaron Hicks pinch ran and went to third on Brian McCann’s single. After Mark Teixeira struck out to end a 10-pitch at-bat, Hicks scored when shortstop Eduardo Escobar, with the infield in, booted Starlin Castro’s ground smash for an error.
Didi Gregorius singled to left to load the bases with one out, but McCann was thrown out at the plate on Chase Headley’s fly ball to shallow leftfield. Nevertheless, the Yankees had the lead they needed for Chapman to close it out.
The Yankees improved to 12-0 when the torch trio pitch in the same game. They have combined for a 1.24 ERA in those games, striking out 62 in 36 1⁄3 innings.
“You’ve seen the last couple of years, you have a dominant bullpen, you can do a lot of good things,” McCann said. “It’s a nice asset to have.”
But it does not speak well of the Yankees, who went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10, that they needed the threesome in back-to-back games to protect slim leads against the brutal Twins.
More than likely, that leaves Girardi without any of them for Sunday’s series finale. Though he has made exceptions before, he rarely uses relievers three consecutive days (the Yankees were off on Thursday after the trio closed out Wednesday’s win over the Rockies).
“You have to win today; tomorrow doesn’t really need anything,” Girardi said. “It does now as you look forward to it, but obviously you have to win today.”
Chapman said he will be ready if called upon. “The way I feel right now, I know that I’ll be ready to pitch tomorrow,” he said through his translator.
He added with a laugh: “The following day? I don’t know.”
Minnesota righthander Ervin Santana, who brought a 4.83 ERA into the game but beat the Yankees last Sunday, allowed one run and six hits in five innings.
Up-and-down righthander Pineda, who has been mostly down this season, pitched well for the Yankees, allowing one run and two hits in six innings. Pineda struck out eight and walked one in lowering his ERA to 5.51 from 5.82.
Pineda felt better about two pitches he’s struggled with much of the season, his slider and changeup, but spoke most glowingly about the arms that followed him Saturday.
“You feel good,” Pineda said with a smile, “when you have three guys like that in the bullpen.”