Yankees rally to beat the Twins

May 15, 2009 9:38:13 PM PDT
Brett Gardner was visiting with a young girl at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital on Friday, when she gave him a bracelet. "She told me that if I kept it, I would hit a home run," he said. "She said I'll hit a home run tonight. She said as long as I have it, I'll hit a home run every at-bat, which we all know is not going to happen."

On an strange night when Alex Rodriguez played his first game at the new Yankee Stadium, Gardner hit an unusual home run to spark a late-innings Yankees comeback.

Gardner had the first inside-the-park homer in the ballpark's young history, then tripled to spark a three-run ninth inning that carried the Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 5-4 and stopped a five-game home losing streak. Melky Cabrera capped the rally against Joe Nathan (1-1) with a two-run, bases-loaded single.

"It was probably more likely for me to hit an inside-the-parker than it was to hit once over the fence, so I'm glad I could do that for her," Gardner said. "Hopefully, she was watching, it made her smile a little bit. If not, hopefully she can see the replay and it makes her happy."

Gardner, who won the center-field job in spring training and then lost it last month to Cabrera, wasn't even in the starting lineup. He entered in the fourth after Johnny Damon was called out on strikes for the second time by umpire Wally Bell, then was ejected for drawing a line on the inside part of the plate with his bat.

Gardner was 3 for 3, falling a triple short of the cycle. On the homer, he circled the bases on a looper down the left-field line that took a topspin bounce away from Denard Span.

"At first I thought I could catch it, and then I slowed up and tried to keep it to a single, and then it shot the other way," Span said.

Gardner didn't remember the girl's name but said he recalled her face. He kept the bracelet in his locker.

"I'll take it with me everywhere I go," he said.

Justin Morneau hit two solo homers off Phil Hughes and Joe Mauer had one against Phil Coke had one as the Twins built a 4-1 lead.

Derek Jeter also connected for New York - there have been 52 homers at Yankee Stadium, two shy of the major league record for most in the first 14 games at a major league park.

Minnesota pitched around A-Rod, playing at home for the first time since admitting he used steroids and having hip surgery. He was 0 for 1 with a bases-loaded strikeout and four walks, getting an ovation before his first plate appearance. He was booed following the whiff.

"It was just nice, from early on in batting practice, walking around the city," Rodriguez said. "Overall, people have been very gracious."

There was some testiness when New York first baseman Mark Teixeira yelled and pointed at Carlos Gomez, who ran into his previously injured wrist on the fair side of the foul line on his eighth-inning sacrifice. Players converged and screamed, but no punches were thrown.

Two innings earlier, Gomez had run past Teixeira on the same side.

"Twice in the same game, a guy is running on the grass," Teixeira said, "trying to get into my way, get in the catcher's way. The second time there is a collision. ... It happens one time, you know, it might be a mistake. But you know a guy is purposely running on the grass. ... I've seen a lot of first basemen, a lot of second basemen, you know, ruin seasons, ruin careers because of it."

Gomez denied any nefarious intentions.

"I don't want to hit his glove but that's what happens. If I run inside, the first guy who is going to tell me is Gardy or the coaches and they didn't say anything," he said, referring to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Everything's cool."

Gardenhire and Yankees manager Joe Girardi exchanged words.

"He defends his players; I defend mine," Gardenhire said. "We're not going to fight or anything. He can outrun me, but I think I can get away from him."

Said Girardi: "He started yelling at my player, and I didn't say anything to his player, and that I didn't necessarily care for."

New York hadn't take the lead in 48 consecutive innings in its own ballpark before the rally and its batters were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the first eight innings.

Gardner began the ninth with a triple to right-center off Nathan, who blew a save for the second time in eight chances. Gardner stumbled rounding first, but didn't think he could have stretched it into another insider the parker.

Teixeira singled, Rodriguez walked, Hideki Matsui struck out and Nick Swisher hit a bouncer between first and second that Morneau snagged with a dive and turned into an out at first.

Robinson Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases and Cabrera, who ended the first homestand with a 14th-inning homer against Oakland on April 22, hit the first pitch into short left-center to drive in two runs. That made a winner of Jose Veras (2-1).

"Good thing I did get kicked out," Damon said.

Notes: Twins 3B Joe Crede left in the fifth inning because of a back spasm and tight hamstring. ... The Yankees have won 20 of their last 23 regular-season home games against the Twins.