NEW YORK – Mariano Rivera got the last out, sealing yet another October triumph. Jorge Posada trotted out to mound, and the Yankees came out of the dugout in a businesslike manner to shake each other’s hands.
No crazy celebration, at least not yet.
Postseason step No. 1 accomplished. Two more to go before the New York Yankees’ big party can start.
And yet another quick October exit for the Minnesota Twins.
Phil Hughes pitched seven shutout innings, Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher homered and the Yankees beat the Twins 6-1 Saturday night to complete yet another three-game sweep of Minnesota and return to the A.L. championship series.
“We have a long way to go,” Derek Jeter said. “We gained a lot of confidence, the way we did last year in the playoffs.”
Even newcomers sense only part of the mission is complete.
“That’s three down,” said Thames, whose fourth-inning homer blew open the game, “but we’ve got eight more games to go.”
For starters, though, the Yankees sped past the Twins with ease. It’s not just a pair of playoff victories for New York against Minnesota, but four in the last decade – all in the first round.
Robinson Cano got New York started when he tripled off Brian Duensing in the second inning and scored on Posada’s single. Mark Teixeira added an RBI single in the third, and Thames made it 4-0 with his first career postseason homer, a two-run drive over the right-field scoreboard.
The A.L. Central champion Twins lost their 12th straight postseason game dating to 2004, one shy of the record set by the Boston Red Sox from 1986-95. Minnesota’s last nine losses have been against the Yankees.
After leading the major leagues during the regular season with a .285 average with runners in scoring position, the Twins couldn’t get a single clutch hit in the playoffs. With runners in scoring position, they went an almost impossibly bad 0 for 14 before Denard Span’s too-little, too-late single in the eighth off Kerry Wood.
Orlando Hudson followed with an RBI single, and a Joe Mauer walk loaded the bases. Boone Logan threw one pitch, retiring Kubel on an infield pop, and David Robertson got Delmon Young on an inning-ending flyout.