NEW YORK – Derek Jeter got a big hit, just as he did in Octobers past at the famed ballpark across the street. CC Sabathia joined in the postseason fun. Even Alex Rodriguez broke out of his playoff rut.
It was like old times in the first postseason game at the new Yankee Stadium, with New York beating these tired Minnesota Twins 7-2 Wednesday night in the opener of their A.L. playoff series.
“It felt just like the old place,” Jeter said. “We couldn’t have drawn it up any better for us.”
After Jeter’s third-inning homer off loser Brian Duensing drew New York even at 2, Nick Swisher pulled a go-ahead double down the left-field line in the fourth that scored Robinson Cano from first as left fielder Delmon Young and shortstop Orlando Cabrera made a pair of poor throws.
Rodriguez had gone 0 for 29 in the postseason with runners on base dating to Game 4 of the 2004 A.L. Championship Series before chasing Duensing with an RBI single that made it 4-2 in the fifth.
From there the Yankees breezed to their first postseason win in exactly two years.
On a night with sustained winds blowing to right-center at 20 mph, with gusts up to 43 mph, Hideki Matsui followed with a two-run homer into Monument Park on left-hander Francisco Lirano’s fourth pitch. The Yankees celebrated like kids, just as the Twins did when they beat Detroit in an A.L. Central tiebreaker at the Metrodome on Tuesday night.
“Crazy. Nuts,” Swisher said. “Everyone knows I’m a little hyper. Probably the hardest thing was keeping myself under control.”
Rodriguez added another run-scoring single in the seventh against Jon Rauch following an error by first baseman Michael Cuddyer. Rodriguez’s drive hit halfway up the right-field wall. New York scored five runs with two outs.
“It definitely felt good,” Rodriguez said. “There’s no questions the numbers aren’t good, but you’ve got to come out and play.”
Wearing long sleeves on the blustery night, Sabathia got past a 22-pitch first inning and found a sharp cutter in his Yankees postseason debut.
“This is what you come here for,” Sabathia said. “It was electric tonight.”
Despite retiring the side in order just twice, Sabathia allowed one earned run and eight hits in 62/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none.
“He got nasty. He was deceiving,” Minnesota’s Denard Span said.
Sabathia, who twice got crossed up with catcher Jorge Posada, left with two on after 113 pitches. He tipped his cap to a ballpark record crowd of 49,464.
Jeter’s home run had inspired the big lefty.
“The place got loud,” Sabathia said. “Him starting out the game with a single and then tying the score up right back, it just made me want to go out there and get three quick outs.”
Minnesota didn’t arrive at its hotel until nearly 4 a.m. EDT and appeared to lack the energy that propelled the Twins during a 17-4 finish. The Twins struck out 12 times.
“Guys are tired,” A.L. batting champ Joe Mauer said before adding, “this isn’t the time of year for that, to be worrying about that.”
After a day off, the series resumes Friday, when A.J. Burnett pitches for the Yankees against Nick Blackburn. New York will try to get off to its first 2-0 postseason start since 1999 against Texas.
Jeter was on base four times with two hits and two walks.