Several Yankee winning streaks ended on Sunday with the 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Yankees Stadium. The Yankees had defeated the Twins in their last 12 meetings, including three straight in the 2009 American League Division Series (ALDS), The Yanks also ended a two-game win streak and a six-game home winning streak. The team’s mastery of the Twins has been long-standing. The Yanks have been victorious in 43 of the 58 games the two teams have played since 2002.
As Sunday’s game was nearing its conclusion, it appeared to most of the 46,628 fans in attendance that the Yankees would sweep another series from Minnesota. Spot starter Sergio Mitre held the Twins to one-run, a homer by Justin Morneau, in five innings on the mound. Yankee skipper Joe Girardi commented, “He did everything we asked him.” The start was only Mitre’s second with the Yankees this season. He has five relief appearances.
The Yanks put two runs on the board in the second. Randy Winn hit a two-run triple that scored Jorge Posada (single) and Marcus Thames (walk). Ramiro Pena, at shortstop, and Derek Jeter, at designated hitter, singled to open the bottom of the fifth. After Brett Gardner fanned, Mark Teixeira single to center to drive in Pena. Teixeira, After a horrendous season start in April when he only hit safely 11 times in 22 games, Teixeira has been red-hot in May. Tex is batting .339 (21 for 62) with 20 runs batted in during the 15 games played through Sunday.
New York entered the contest with a 12-2 home record and a 92-3 mark when leading after six innings. David Robertson pitched two scoreless innings after following Mitre to the mound. Yankees fans were gleeful with the thought of Joba Chamberlain in the eighth and closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Expectations are not always met and they were not met for Yankees rooters Chamberlain loaded the bases, two singles and a base on balls, and retired two batters before leaving the game. Rivera entered to attempt to get a relatively rare four out save.
After falling behind 3-0 on veteran slugger Jim Thome, the batter walked to score a run. Rivera expressed great disappointment in what he considered a personal failure, “I just didn’t do my job. To me, walking in a run, that’s unacceptable.” The bases loaded walk was the first issued by Rivera since May 6, 2005 when he issued a pass to Keith Gintel of Oakland. Left fielder Jason Kubel, batting at .224 before the game began, stunned everyone in the park by driving a ball into the right field stands for a grand slam homer. Of the home run, Rivera stated, “These things are going to happen.”
The shock by which most observers reacted to Rivera’s performance shows how outstanding a closer he has been. The homer was the first run Rivera has surrendered this season. The blown save was Rivera’s first since September 18, 2009. Another mark snapped was Rivera’s 51 converted save attempts at home held by Rivera and Eric Gagne.
The post-game remark of manager Girardi was apropos, “He [Rivera] showed he was human today.” Rivera’s performances, especially in clutch situations are on such a high level, that it is shocking when he is anything less than perfect.