Although the two teams seemed evenly matched going into the series, the New York Yankees have already tilted the scales in their direction.
Behind an early offensive explosion, the Yankees took a commanding 8-2 decision against the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Saturday night.
Didi Gregorius crushed a grand slam as part of a seven-run third inning that all but put the game out of reach for New York. Each member of the Yankees’ lineup besides Gary Sanchez, who was hit by a pitch, and Giancarlo Stanton, who plated a run on a sacrifice fly, recorded a hit by the third inning.
Gregorius, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge each had multiple hits for New York. Encarnacion drove in the Yankees’ first run in the opening inning after DJ LeMahieu’s lead-off double against rookie starter Randy Dobnak. Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner both had RBI singles in the third inning.
Dobnak earned his spot on the Twins staff with a 1.59 ERA in his first 28.1 major league innings. But he failed to record an out in the third inning Saturday and exited with the bases loaded. He was eventually charged with four runs on six hits and a pair of walks. Tyler Duffey got two outs in that third inning but also allowed a pair of hits, including the Gregorius slam.
During the regular season, opponents were 4-for-54 off Duffey after falling behind 0-2.
Tonight, Duffey gives up a single, hits a batter and gives up a grand slam after getting ahead 0-2.
— LaVelle E. Neal III (@LaVelleNeal) October 5, 2019
Although one offense is very much deciding this series, the Yankees got excellent performances out of Masahiro Tanaka and their bullpen. Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Tyler Lyons contributed three scoreless innings in relief.
Minnesota got a run on a Mitch Garver single in the fourth during their only real threat before garbage time. Garver’s base knock put two on with one out, but Tanaka was able to squirm out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts of Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano.
Arraez later added a run on a two-out RBI double off Jonathan Loaisiga in the ninth.
So far, New York’s offense has answered the call, already outscoring Minnesota 18-6 in the first two games. The Twins have lost 15 consecutive postseason games and are running out of time in what’s already a lopsided series.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Masahiro Tanaka: The Yankees gave Tanaka plenty of early support, but he pitched to his reputation as a clutch postseason performer. He surrendered a run on three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over five innings. Tanaka has a 1.54 ERA with 32 strikeouts and eight walks in six October starts.
Edwin Encarnacion: An offensive hero in Game 1, Encarnacion stayed hot Saturday night. He singled home the Yankees’ first run in the opening inning and added another base hit in the rally leading up to the Gregorius slam. Credit should also go to Aaron Judge, who had two hits and reached base four times — both hits came in the same inning, which is a first for a Yankee in the club’s 399th postseason game.
Devin Smeltzer: Things were already out of hand for Minnesota, but Smeltzer prevented them from getting much worse. He allowed an inherited runner to score on consecutive singles to begin his outing, but kept the Yankees at bay soon after. The rookie Smeltzer walked three and struck out four over 3.1 innings in his first postseason appearance. Cody Stashak, Trevor May, Sergio Romo and Zack Littell each had scoreless outings for Minnesota.
MUST SEE MOMENT
Gregorius’ grand slam put an exclamation point on the seven-run third inning. Yankee Stadium erupted, and the lead seemed insurmountable for the Twins. Also, Gregorius either knew it was gone off the bat or thought he yanked it foul, the reaction was indistinguishable.
WHAT THEY’LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Folks began eulogizing the Twins’ season after Gregorius’ grand slam. Should we expect more of the same as the series shifts to Minnesota? The Yankees are 11-1 in their past 12 postseason games against the Twins.
Rocco Baldelli saved Odorizzi, a fly ball pitcher, for Game 3 at Target Field and opted to go with the grounder inducing Dobnak in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. Should Baldelli have put his best foot forward and started Odorizzi in New York to avoid falling behind, 0-2?
The Yankees will look to end the series in Minnesota with a win in Game 3 on Monday at 8:40 p.m. ET. Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50 ERA) starts for the Yankees in his fourth major league appearance of 2019. Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51 ERA) will try to keep the season alive for Minnesota.
More from Yahoo Sports: