NEW YORK – The Yankees swept a doubleader from Minnesota by throwing a team from the 90s at the Twins — as in uniform numbers usually limited to spring training.
“It doesn't matter if our big guys are here or they're not,” Aaron Judge said after hitting his major league-leading 55th home run Wednesday to start the first of two rallies that carried New York to 5-4 and 7-1 wins. “We walk out there, we've got the pinstripes, we're wearing the NY, and every single guy that walks in this clubhouse is going to get the job done.”
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, playing third base for the first time in two years, sparked a two-run 12th inning in the opener with a tying leadoff single and hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fourth inning of the nightcap.
IKF sent a belt-high slider from Joe Ryan (10-8) into the left-field seats and flipped his bat after the no-doubt drive, his first slam among 19 career home runs.
“Last year I was on a 100-loss team,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Whatever it takes to win, that's all I care about.”
Oswaldo Cabrera stopped an 0-for-25 slide with a game-ending single in the opener.
Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter were among those hurt or unavailable.
Judge (No. 99) was joined by Nos. 95 (Cabrera), 91 (shortstop Oswald Peraza), 97 (reliever Ron Marinaccio) and 90 (center fielder Estevan Florial) to give the Yankees five players with jerseys in the 90s. Greg Weissert (3-0), who won the opener, had a relatively low No. 85.
Peraza got his first four big league hits in the doubleheader, including a pair of doubles. Cabrera threw out Gilberto Celestino at the plate in the 10th inning, his fifth outfield assist since his Aug. 17 debut, and made a sliding catch on Gio Urshela.
“When we've seen what Oswaldo Cabrera has done on the defensive side of the ball or with big hits, that's provided some energy,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, going on to also cite Peraza and Florial. “Those are things that I think create energy, when young, talented players come up and play like they belong.”
Gerrit Cole (11-7) struck out a season-high 14 in the night game, allowing five hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. Carlos Correa hit a third-inning homer, and with the crowd chanting “Cheater!" in the seventh, Correa struck out to strand two runners against Lucas Luetge, who went 2 1/3 innings for his second save. Aaron Hicks added a three-run double in the eighth after Austin Davis walked the Nos. 7-9 hitters.
New York (83-54) opened a five-game AL East lead over second-place Tampa Bay and clinched its 30th straight winning season. The Yankees are 114-39 against the Twins since 2002, including the playoffs.
Judge homered for the fourth straight game, driving a changeup to left in the fourth inning, the only blemish of Louie Varland’s otherwise outstanding major league debut. Judge set the Yankees record for right-handed hitters by surpassing the 54 homers hit by Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
Varland, a 24-year-old right-hander, gave up three hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. He averaged 93.9 mph with 44 fastballs, mixing in 19 changeups and 17 sliders.
“I’m glad it’s over because there’s a lot of anxiety,” the St. Paul native said. “I couldn’t really feel my legs the first batter. After that first out though, things kind of went back to normal."
Judge struck out on a changeup in the first.
"The perfect one to do my first strikeout," Varland said.
Twenty-three family members and friends were on hand, visible on the third base side in a sparse crowd for the makeup of Tuesday's rainout.
“It’s like watching a movie. We’re just floating around. He deserves this so much,” said his mom, Kim. “It’s overwhelming joy. He’s been a fan forever and to get the hometown team is amazing, amazing.”
Minnesota, which dropped two games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland, had built a 3-0 lead when Jose Miranda hit a two-run homer inside the left-field foul pole in the first and Celestino had an RBI single in the third. Gleyber Torres tied it with a two-run homer in the sixth off Griffin Jax.
After Celestino’s RBI single off Marinaccio gave Minnesota a 4-3 lead in the 12th, Weissert retired Correa on a popout and Miranda on a flyout.
Kiner-Falefa singled off Trevor Megill (3-3), stole second with one out and scored when Cabrera grounded a curve for an opposite-field, two-out single to left that ended a 4-hour, 3-minute struggle.
“They're cool, calm and collected,” Judge said of the kids. “I don't see them up there timid. They're not scared.”
New York's streak of winning seasons is second only to the big league record of 39 set by the Yankees from 1926-64.
Minnesota made a season-high four errors in the opener. LF Jake Cave threw out Marwin Gonzalez at the plate in the nightcap.
Judge was walked five times in the twinbill, three intentionally.
Yankees: LHP Zack Britton (Tommy John surgery) pitched a hitless inning with a walk and a strikeout in his first rehab outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. .... Rizzo went on the injured list, retroactive to Saturday, due to headaches following an epidural injection for lower back pain. ... Donaldson was placed on the paternity list.
Former Yankee RHP Sonny Gray (7-4, 3.10) is to start Thursday’s series finale for Minnesota. All-Star LHP Nestor Cortes (9-4, 2.68 ERA) will be activated following a groin strain to start for New York.
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