Mancuso: Yankees Face Tough Road Ahead

With almost a half season completed for the Minnesota Twins there have not been many highlights to brag about, and that is part of a team in the rebuilding stages and the struggle. Minnesota came to Yankee Stadium Friday night with the worst record in the American League and battling the Atlanta Braves to avoid being in that category by the end of September.

And like any team with struggles to get back on top, there will be some highlights. Sunday afternoon they took the finale of three games against the Yankees and their 7-1 win could end up being a highlight they talk about all year.

They snapped a three-game losing streak, and won for the fourth time in their last 12 games. But the way they got this win against the Yankees made them Bronx Bombers for a day, as six of nine batters in their lineup hit home runs. That does not happen often and it was the most home runs allowed by the Yankees in a game since September 6, 2012 at Baltimore.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said again, “ We need to win series” and they did this time taking three of four from the AL worst team that stands 24-51. But Nathan Eovaldi was not effective on the mound for New York, and he threw three straight of those Twins home run balls in the sixth inning.

As they say, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Max Kepler went belly-to-belly-to belly.

The Twins were the Bronx Bombers for a day, and Eovaldi is still trying to figure out what went wrong this time. The Yankees need him to get it right as one of their core starters. And the Twins put on a home run derby in that sixth inning, as the Yankees tied their single game high for the current Yankee Stadium in giving up the home run ball.

“This ballpark is more friendlier than Minnesota,” said Manager Paul Molitor. He was not minimizing the potential his team has of hitting the long ball. But Yankee Stadium, especially when the weather permits is known to be a very and friendly place for the home run ball.

Eduardo Nunez, the former Yankee also hit one to left field. It was his 10th home run of the season in the seventh inning and he reached double digits in home runs in a season for the first time in his career. The 29 RBI are also one shy of his single season career high of 30 when he was a Yankee back in 2011.

“Just felt it was a good at bat at that moment,” he said about the 1-2 curveball he hit off reliever Luis Cessa who made another return to the Bronx from Scranton earlier in the day. “We got some good pitches to hit with our at bats today.” The Twins are looking for Nunez to just get on base, and he has been reliable starting at third and batting .315.

Juan Centeno, who had limited playing time across town with the Mets got the rare start behind the plate for starter and winning pitcher Tyler Duffy. Centeno, may get more playing time after hitting the final home run for the Twins in the ninth inning.

“ Been working hard,” Centeno said when asked about his second homerun of the season. “When you don’t play enough it’s tough. Just getting good pitchers to hit today and got a good barrel on it. That part of the Twins Bronx Bombers day came off the last Yankees reliever, Kirby Yates.

“Juan is watching more than he’s catching,” Molitor said. “He hasn’t been out there a lot so you have to say he had a good day. He’s trying to keep learning to get a better understanding of our guys when he’s asked to catch.”

And it was more than the bat that made Centeno score some points with the manager. The Yankees would get two hits off right hander Tyler Duffy who tossed a career high 8.0 innings and struck out eight. One of those hits was a solo home run from Mark Teixeira, his fourth of the season in the eighth that spoiled a shutout bid.

Duffy was perfect. He retired the first 17 Yankees before a two-out double by Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning. For Duffy, 3-6, it could mean more starts and the way his fastball and curve were moving, he may have earned the opportunity.

Molitor said, Centeno called a good game for his pitcher. “Execution is good,” he said. “You get a good pitching performance like that you have to tip your hat to the catcher.” Duffy watched three games at Yankee Stadium last season on the bench and Sunday he located the fastball, worked the inside corner and had control.”

Duffy said about almost being perfect: “It was in the back of my mind. I knew what was going on the whole time. Hicks hit the double, I had to get the next guy out. You finish it’s awesome. Me finishing, I think it was the pitch count. I have been struggling.”

But on this day, it was the Minnesota Twins and the home run ball also that made them Bronx Bombers. For the Yankees, four games with the first place Texas Rangers awaits them in the Bronx and they hope to once again become the Bronx Bombers.

If not these next eight games before a long road trip, and prior to the all-star break also with the first place Orioles, can determine where their season is headed.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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