The Minnesota Twins have proved they're capable of playing spoiler down the stretch, but doing so against the New York Yankees may be a bit more difficult - especially with Andy Pettitte on the mound.
Pettitte looks to extend his long unbeaten run against Minnesota by helping the visiting Yankees earn a 26th victory in their last 32 matchups with the Twins in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.
Minnesota cost Detroit a shot at first place in the AL Central by sweeping a doubleheader Sunday, winning 10-4 in the first game before a 2-1 victory in 10 innings. It will look to cause similar problems for the East-leading Yankees, but New York has dominated the Twins in recent seasons.
The Yankees (88-64), who lead second-place Baltimore by one game, are 25-6 including the postseason versus Minnesota since 2009.
Pettitte's individual run against the Twins is even more impressive.
The 40-year-old left-hander hasn't lost to Minnesota since April 30, 2001, winning nine straight decisions - including three postseason victories - with a 2.74 ERA over his last 11 starts.
He won both of his starts at Target Field in 2010, including Game 2 of the AL division series.
Pettitte (4-3, 2.97 ERA) will be making his second start since coming off the disabled list. He pitched well in his return from a fractured ankle that caused him to miss nearly three months, allowing four hits in five scoreless innings of Wednesday's 4-2 win over Toronto.
"When you see these guys go through what they've been going through, and I've been sitting here watching and just trying to cheerlead for them, it's great to be able to go out there and feel like you contributed,'' Pettitte said.
New York, though, had its seven-game winning streak snapped with a 5-4 loss to Oakland on Sunday. Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer and Derek Jeter went 2 for 4 as the team's designated hitter.
Jeter has played shortstop only three times in the last nine games, and Eduardo Nunez made two crucial errors in his place Sunday. Manager Joe Girardi is trying to protect Jeter's bruised right ankle by limiting him.
"I think it's more that you worry about the more he's on it, the better chance he has of ... re-injuring it or irritating it more than it already is,'' Girardi said.
Jeter doesn't feel the same.
"I don't have a physical issue,'' he said. "I'm fine to play.''
While that gets sorted out, Minnesota (64-89) looks to win for the fifth time in seven tries after Jamey Carroll's RBI single won the second game Sunday.
"To come (into) a playoff situation - whether you're playing for the playoffs or not - and take two of three from these guys is huge for us,'' said winning pitcher Jared Burton.
The Twins look to knock off another contender with help from Liam Hendriks, who is coming off his first major league victory after beginning his career with 17 winless starts.
Hendriks (1-7, 5.88) allowed two runs in six innings of a 6-4 win at Cleveland on Wednesday.
"It took a long, long time,'' Hendriks said. "I could have done without the shaving cream in my eye, but I'm excited to become the 16th Australian to win a major league game.''
The right-hander has never faced the Yankees.
- Andy Pettitte
- The Minnesota Twins