Yankees 5, Twins 3
Jeter drove in the tying run with a seventh-inning single off the glove of reliever Juan Rincon, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run triple high off the right-field wall that led the Yankees to a 5-3 victory in the opener of Wednesday’s twi-night doubleheader.
New York (98-59) reopened a three-game lead over second-place Boston (95-62) with four games remaining for each team. The Yankees and Red Sox, who played at Tampa Bay later Wednesday, are both assured of no worse than the AL wild-card berth and could meet Minnesota, the AL Central champion, in a first-round series starting Tuesday.
The Twins (90-67) are vying with the eventual AL West winner—Anaheim, Oakland or Texas—for homefield advantage in the first round.
Johan Santana, seeking to gain his 21st win and match Boston’s Curt Schilling for the major league lead, dominated New York for five innings and left with a 3-1 lead. But the Yankees extended their major league record for come-from-behind wins with their 60th, ending Santana’s streak of wins in 12 straight starts. Still, Santana remained 13-0 in 15 starts since the All-Star break.
Hideki Matsui homered off J.C. Romero (7-4) with one out in the seventh, John Olerud walked with two outs and Miguel Cairo singled. Rincon relieved to face Jeter, whose bouncer to the third-base side of the mound tipped off the pitcher’s glove for an infield hit. Rodriguez followed with a drive that went to the side of a leaping Jason Kubel against the wall in right.
Paul Quantrill (7-3) pitched one inning to win in relief of Mike Mussina, who gave up Torii Hunter’s homer and Corey Koskie’s two-run double in the first. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 53rd save in 57 chances.
Limited to five innings by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who wants his ace rested for Tuesday’s postseason opener, Santana struck out five and gave up three hits.
New York scored its only run off Santana when Jeter doubled leading off the first and came home on Gary Sheffield’s one-out single.
On the Yankees’ shaky starting rotation, Mussina is the closest thing to an ace they have these days, especially now that Orlando Hernandez’s status had become uncertain because of right shoulder stiffness. Mussina matched his season high with four walks—one intentional—and gave up seven hits in six innings.
Yankees manager Joe Torre thinks Hernandez should be able to start Friday at Toronto. Before Tuesday night’s rainout, Hernandez was scratched from his scheduled start. … Twins OF Shannon Stewart was rested because of a tight right hamstring.
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