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Yankees crush Twins to take 2-1 series lead
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Derek Jeter throws to first to try to complete a double-play in the 2nd inning. Instead, he threw it into the Yankee dugout. (Jed Jaconbson/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Twins will be trying to keep their post-season hopes alive when they take the field in the Metrodome Saturday. Friday night's 8-4 loss to the New York Yankees means the Twins now trail their best-of-five-games playoff series, two games to one.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Even the seats up near the Teflon-coated fiberglass roof were occupied as the Twins brought the 2004 version of baseball's playoffs to the Metrodome.

The 54,083 fans on hand outnumbered those at any regular season game in the Dome and they didn't have to wait long for something to scream about. With the second Minnesota batter of the game at the plate, the Yankees' Kevin Brown threw a pitch he later described as a "mistake." The Twins' Jacque Jones, sent that mistake on a 402-foot ride, and a snowstorm of Homer Hankies greeted the ball's landing in the left field stands.

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Image Hideki Matsui

But for the Minnesota faithful, Jones' first-inning home run was the game's only highlight, at least until a few ninth inning runs allowed the Twins to reduce New York's victory margin. The Twins' lead evaporated when the Yankees strung together five consecutive singles in the second inning.

None of the pitches from the Twins' Carlos Silva was especially hard hit, but each mangaged to squeak through the Minnesota infield. Unlike teammate Johan Santana, who uses strikeouts to dispense with opposing hitters, Silva is most effective when he gets batters to beat his sinking pitches into the ground, where they often roll harmlessly toward infielders for easy outs.

Manager Ron Gardenhire agreed that it was hard to fault the performance of his 25-year-old pitcher through the first five innings.

"If you've followed this team and followed Silva, you know he's going to give up hits. Most of the time, he gets them to hit it at people and we turn double plays. I think we only did that once tonight. The kid was giving up the hits he normally does -- some bloops and so forth -- but he was giving us a chance to win. And that's pretty much his game: throwing the ball over the plate and making them hit the ball," Gardenhire said.

Silva lost his edge in the sixth inning, though, giving up a home run to the Yankees' Bernie Williams. Silva and two relief pitchers allowed four New York runs in the inning. Meanwhile, the Twins hitters were unable to score again off of Kevin Brown. Brown had only recently returned from surgery on his non-pitching hand, which he had broken in early September when he pounded the clubhouse wall in frustration over a poor outing.

Yankees Manager Joe Torre noted Brown allowed a number of baserunners but -- apart from his mistake to Jones -- kept any from scoring runs.

"He's certainly come up big for us tonight," Torre said. And the fact that he got in a lot of trouble and was able to pitch out of it -- he kept his composure all night, which I thought was great."

Perhaps the most disappointing inning for the Twins came in their half of the sixth, just after they'd fallen behind by six runs. Twins center fielder Torii Hunter opened the inning by hitting a line drive that dropped into left field. As Hunter rounded first base and sped toward second, the ball glanced off the leg of Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui. Seeing this, Hunter kept running toward third. But Matsui quickly recovered the ball and his throw beat Hunter to the base for the out.

Later in the same inning, the Twins Corey Koskie was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Brown says it doesn't matter how a pitcher gets the outs, as long as he gets them.

"We had a couple fortunate plays where balls were base hits but we managed to get outs. Kind of an unusual play -- I think Hideki set him up pretty good there by kicking the ball," Brown said.

Even as he conceded that the baserunning gambles were not smart plays, Manager Gardenhire couldn't keep from admiring the aggressiveness his players showed.

"The guys are trying," he insisted. "They're giving everything they have and they're busting their tail running the bases. Tonight it just didn't look good, but they wanted to win. They were playing and that's what I care about. They wanted to win and they were trying and that's what we do here in Minnesota."

When he went back out to center field, Hunter tried valiantly to catch a long fly ball hit by Matsui. Approaching the outfield wall on the run, Hunter timed his leap and had the ball in his grasp momentarily. But as his body crashed into the wall, the ball popped back out of his glove, landing in the stands for a home run. To Gardenhire, the play was another admirable effort that yielded disappointing results. In this case, though, there was also some relief that Hunter was not seriously injured.

"We've seen him hit the wall pretty hard and that was one of the hardest. As you all know when you've seen him play, he gives everything he has on every play. He tried to catch that ball and came real close. His back was a little stiff but he'll be out there playing tomorrow," he said.

A loss will send the Twins home for the winter. A win will send them back to Yankee Stadium for a decisive game five on Sunday night.

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