- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

NEW YORK — Johan Santana and the Minnesota Twins’ dazzling defense had the New York Yankees seeing double.

Santana and the Twins escaped trouble with the help of a record-setting five double plays, Jacque Jones homered in his first start since the death of his father, and the Twins beat the Yankees 2-0 last night to win their eighth straight opener in a postseason series.

Minnesota’s Soul Patrol outfield twice denied the Yankees with jumping catches — left fielder Shannon Stewart saved one run and possibly two on Ruben Sierra’s shot in the second, and center fielder Torii Hunter pulled in an eighth-inning drive by Alex Rodriguez at the top of the wall.

Hunter also threw out Jorge Posada at the plate in the second, completing one of the double plays by the Twins, who set a record for twin killings in a nine-inning postseason game.

“Torii’s got a strong arm, he’s a great defensive center fielder,” Jones said. “Johan used his defense when he needed to.”

Brad Radke now starts for the AL Central champions tonight, trying to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series, which shifts to the noisy Metrodome in Minneapolis starting Friday.

New York, which lost the first game of all three postseason series it played last year, is in familiar position: The Yankees have dropped the first-round opener in three of the last four seasons — winning the series each time, but losing to Anaheim two years ago after leading 1-0.

Santana, unbeaten in 16 starts since the All-Star break, allowed eight hits in seven innings, the most off him since May 23. Four of the Yankees’ first six batters reached safely and 10 of the first 24, but Santana kept escaping.

“His heart was unbelievable,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Juan Rincon pitched the eighth and Joe Nathan finished for the save with the Twins’ only 1-2-3 inning of the game. New York, shut out for the second straight time in postseason play, went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

“We had many opportunities,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Santana probably didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but when he needed to get a ground ball, he got it.”

The closest the Yankees came to scoring was in the seventh — after another of the long “God Bless America” renditions that Gardenhire dislikes. Sierra hit a drive past the left-field foul pole — left-field umpire Jerry Crawford signaled a home run, but after a huddle by several umpires, the call was correctly reversed to foul, drawing boos from the sellout crowd of 55,749.

Mike Mussina, the most dependable starter on the weakest Yankees’ rotation in years, had been 20-2 against the Twins before losing in the playoffs last year and at the Metrodome on Aug. 18.

He allowed his first run in the third on an RBI single by Stewart, who was 3-for-3 with two RBI against Mussina this summer in the pitcher’s first start off the disabled list.

Jones, just back from California after making funeral arrangements for his father, homered in the sixth. He took a red-eye flight to rejoin the team and intends to go back to California for the funeral tomorrow.

Jones’ homer was his first in the postseason — he pumped his fist in the air when it cleared the wall just after he rounded first base, and as he crossed the plate he pointed skyward.

“I think everybody wanted to see that for Jacque,” Gardenhire said.

Minnesota had lost 20 of its previous 23 games against the Yankees, including last year’s playoff series, and New York repeatedly appeared to be on the verge of breaking ahead in this one.

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