NEW YORK (AP) — Brian Fuentes sounded philosophical.
“The bad news is we’re down 2-0,” the Minnesota Twins reliever said Friday. “But the good news is we’re only down 2-0.”
At this point, anything short of elimination is good news for the AL Central champions.
In a replay of postseasons past, the Twins lost the first two games of the division series against the New York Yankees. Only this time, the series opened in Minneapolis. Of the 16 teams before this year to lose the first two games of the division series at home, the only one to sweep the next three and advance was the 2001 Yankees against Oakland, according to STATS LLC.
“You don’t have to mask it. You don’t have to, you know, say it in a creative way. You just say, `Look, we’ve got to win tonight,”‘ Michael Cuddyer said. “You solely focus on winning that night. And I think if you do that, it might alleviate some of the pressure of looking at this as a three-game uphill battle.”
Minnesota hit just .219 in the first two games, including 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. During the regular season, its .285 RISP average was the best in the major leagues, STATS said.
For a team named the Twins, this group strangely can’t pair big hits together in the playoffs.
“It seems like every time we score, they come back and score, so we’ve got to keep going at them,” J.J. Hardy said. “They’re contagious, so I think if we can just get one big hit, I think they’ll start coming.”
Since winning their 2004 postseason opener at old Yankee Stadium, the Twins have lost 11 straight playoff games. New York could eliminate Minnesota in the first round for the fourth time in a decade following triumphs in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
“It’s not fun,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We have had a lot of pieces change, but the results have been the same. We’re in almost every ballgame. We have had leads in most of them. We haven’t been able to finish them off. We have to figure out a way to finish these guys off. They are a great team. They find out ways to win. We have to figure that out.”
While the Yankees started left-handers CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte in the first two games — and would bring them back if Games 4 and 5 are needed — right-hander Phil Hughes will start Game 3 for New York on Saturday night against Brian Duensing.
Duensing’s family will be on hand.
“I got both parents and my in-laws,” he said. “I told them not to wear any Duensing shirts. I don’t want them getting mobbed out there or anything like that.”
Last year, he started the opener in the first postseason game at new Yankee Stadium and was the loser, allowing five runs in 4 2-3 innings.
There’s a slight downside to his parent’s support.
“They love you either way. They are always happy for you, no matter what, which is nice,” he said. “When you lose — I’m not planning on losing — if you lose, they always give you that lovey-dovey talk. It’s kind of frustrating.”
Gardenhire said he might make a lineup change against Hughes, perhaps inserting Alexi Casilla at shortstop for Hardy or at third base for rookie Danny Valencia.
“Who knows? I’m going to look at it tomorrow, see some numbers and see if we need to move somebody around or not,” the manager said.
Casilla has never faced Hughes, so there’s no track record to go on.
Joe Mauer, the reigning AL MVP, has been playing despite a sore left knee. He’s 2 for 9 with two singles and no RBIs in the series.
“I’ll be in there tomorrow night,” he said. “I guess it really doesn’t matter how good it feels or how bad it feels.”
Despite his Game 2 ejection for arguing balls and strikes, Gardenhire maintains a smooth and steady demeanor. No sense in pitching fits, not even on the verge of elimination.
“Your emotions carry over your tem. If I’m screaming and ranting and raving about hitting and pitching and everything in the dugout, pretty much puts more pressure on the guys,” he said. “So I try to remain as calm as I possibly can and not show my emotions, at least in front of them. If I have to go to a back room and kick the toilet, maybe I’ll do that.”
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