MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees were three outs away from sweeping the Twins out of Target Field.
And then Aroldis Chapman came in.
The closer, dominant for just about all of this season, had perhaps his worst outing ever, giving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Josh Donaldson and then a game-winning homer to Nelson Cruz, as the Twins roared back in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-5 win on Thursday night.
Chapman didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced and his face-plant spoiled a night in which Giancarlo Stanton hit a long three-run homer off ex-Yankee J.A, Happ in the first to give the Yankees a lead out of the gate.
Michael King flirted with danger in the bottom of the inning.
A walk to Donaldson and a single by Alex Kirilloff put runners on the corners with one out. Cruz then ripped a line drive to left, where Miguel Andujar made an uncomfortable catch. Kirilloff scored on the sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 and King walked Trevor Larnach to extend the inning before he got Miguel Sano looking on a generous called strike three.
King threw just 11 strikes in the 24-pitch inning.
Gio Urshela led off the fourth with a shot off the front of the second deck in left, as the Yankees added to their lead. They scored four runs off Happ in his five innings, as his ERA rose to 5.75 a year after the lefty pitched poorly in The Bronx and all but accused the Yankees of skipping his starts to avoid a $17 million vesting option from kicking in.
The Twins got to King again in the bottom of the inning with an Andrelton Simmons RBI double that scored Sano.
Lucas Luetge replaced King with two outs in the fourth and promptly hit Jorge Polanco with a pitch. But Luetge struck out Donaldson to end the inning.
More sloppy play from the Yankees got them in trouble with one out in the fifth, as Cruz reached on catcher’s interference on Gary Sanchez and Larnach followed with a single to left that could have been caught by Andujar.
Jonathan Loaisiga came on to face Sano and got him to fly out to left and Ben Rortvedt to ground out to preserve the lead.
A two-out single by DJ LeMahieu in the sixth drove Andujar in from second to make it 5-2, extending their streak of scoring at least five runs in a game to four games, the first time they’ve done so since September.
After Wandy Peralta allowed an RBI double to Cruz in the seventh to cut the Yankees’ lead to two, Chad Green got Sano on a check-swing strikeout.
Gilberto Celestino robbed the Yankees of a run in the eighth, when he made an excellent running catch on LeMahieu’s liner to right that likely would have scored Brett Gardner from first.
Andujar’s strong throw from left ended the eighth, as he got Celestino trying to stretch a single into a double.
But Chapman blew it.
And although Stanton didn’t get another hit after the first-inning homer, he has three home runs, a double and eight RBIs in his past three games after a slow start in his return from a left quad strain that landed him on the injured list.
This three-game outburst from the lineup was no doubt a product of some combination of Stanton finding his groove, some horrendous Minnesota pitching, as well as record-breaking heat in Minneapolis.
The real test to see if the Yankee offense is ready to live up to expectations comes this weekend, when they head to Philadelphia for a two-game set and will see more representative competition.
Aaron Boone said he’s confident that it was sustainable.
“We’ve seen all these guys perform at a very high level before,’’ Boone said. “There’s no reason to think we can’t continue it. We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas.”
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