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Yanks not finished

YANKEES 7, TWINS 6 (12): The team that set a record for comebacks does it again to avoid a 2-0 ALDS deficit.

MARC TOPKIN
Published October 7, 2004

Former Devil Ray Tanyon Sturtze had just given up a two-out homer in the top of the 12th inning that put the Twins ahead and the Yankees on the verge of a two-games-to-none deficit. But when the players gathered around Sturtze on the mound, they told him they weren't done.

"All the guys said that wasn't going to beat us, that we'll come back," Sturtze said. "And they ended up doing it."

By the time they were done, they had a thrilling 7-6 victory that officially evened the best-of-five series but obviously handed them the momentum going into Game 3 on Friday.

Alex Rodriguez doubled in the tying run and Derek Jeter scored the winner on a shallow sacrifice fly by Hideki Matsui.

"It was a game we needed," said Rodriguez, who started to earn his postseason pinstripes by also homering and singling in a run. "It was a special game for us."

The Yankees set a major-league record with 61 come-from-behind victories this season, and the feeling they shared with Sturtze on the mound carried over to the bench.

"We just looked at each other and said, "Let's go, let's get the first guy on,' " Gary Sheffield said. "It's something we've done all year, so it doesn't surprise me. ... But I don't know how much my heart can take."

The Yankees were in position to win because Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire put closer Joe Nathan in a position to fail, asking him to work a third inning for the first time all season.

"Joe was still flipping the ball pretty good. We know we tried to extend him a little bit, but it's the time of year you have to do that," Gardenhire said. "It didn't work out, and it's a little disappointing. Probably left him out there too long, but really, the options, I didn't like them too well, either."

Ex-Ray Miguel Cairo started the rally with a one-out walk, and Jeter followed with a four-pitch walk. Rodriguez lashed Nathan's pitch to left-center to score the tying run, and the Yankees could have won right there had the ball not hopped over the fence, forcing Jeter to go back to third.

"This is obviously the biggest hit he's had for us so far," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "And you know, where it stood and where we stood in the series, you could live with this being the biggest hit you've ever had because of what it meant."

The Twins intentionally walked Sheffield and brought in left-hander J.C. Romero, and it took all of one pitch for Matsui to line a ball to shallow right, maybe 90 feet behind first base, and Jeter to race home ahead of the throw.

"I was going no matter what," Jeter said. "I told (third-base coach Luis) Sojo, "Sometimes you have to force them to make a play.' "

The Yankees were in position for a much less dramatic victory, getting tying home runs from Jeter and Sheffield and a go-ahead home run and an additional RBI from Rodriguez.

But ace relievers Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera, who blew just his third save in 33 postseason opportunities, couldn't hold a 5-3 eighth-inning lead, and the Yankees faced the startling reality that their $185-million dream team would have to win three straight against the Twins or end up going home for the winter less than a week after the Devil Rays.

It looked even worse when Sturtze, who had actually become one of the Yankees' most dependable relievers, struck a familiar pose, giving up a home run to Torii Hunter.

But the Yankees, who lost the first game in seven of their past 10 postseason series but came back to win five, were just getting started.

"It was a huge game for us," Torre said. "Considering the letdown we had when Gordon and Mo come in. ... The game itself, I don't think I want to watch it again."

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