NEW YORK (AP) — A nice curveball and changeup can help any young pitcher. So can a couple of early home runs from his teammates.
Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada each hit a two-run homer, rookie Ivan Nova kept New York ahead and the Yankees made it another tough visit for Minnesota, beating the Twins 4-3 Monday night.
Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera pitched one scoreless inning apiece to close the Yankees’ 14th victory in their last 15 home tries against Minnesota — that includes wins in New York’s opening-round playoff sweeps over the Twins the last two years.
Nova (1-0) earned the No. 4 spot in the rotation with an exceptional spring. The 24-year-old righty did fine over six innings in his season debut, too.
“You want to get off to a good start, you want to get through the sixth, and he did exactly that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rodriguez lined his 615th homer in the first, then Posada connected the next inning for his third home run in two days. At 39 and now a full-time designated hitter instead of an All-Star catcher, Posada seems to have adjusted nicely to his new role.
“I think everybody’s fresh and it’s April,” Posada said. “If I was catching or DHing, I think I would feel the same way.”
The shots off Scott Baker (0-1) gave the Yankees 11 home runs through their first four games, and once again the long balls gave them a lead they could hold.
Nova started out like a poised vet, striking out leadoff man Denard Span on three pitches. He held the Twins hitless until Justin Morneau doubled in the fourth. Jim Thome lined a two-run double later in the inning — it was the first hit of the year for the 40-year-old DH, now in his 21st season.
Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubled in the fifth, pulling the Twins within 4-3. Nova finished his outing by striking out Thome, and pumped his hand into his glove.
Nova’s thoughts on facing Thome in that situation: “I got to take you out now,” he said.
Nova pitched well in 10 games for the Yankees last season, and has started this year with a new set of goals.
“Win, win and win,” he said.
Chamberlain pitched a perfect seventh, Soriano worked around a single in the eighth and Rivera finished with one-hit ninth for his third save. Rodriguez made a nice play at third base to end it.
“We got behind early, but we battled and just couldn’t come up with one more run,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Their back end of the bullpen is pretty good.”
Baker was the latest Twins pitcher to hurt himself with a lack of control. Minnesota issued the fewest walks in the majors last year, but has walked 20 in four games this season. Baker hit Mark Teixeira with a two-out pitch before Rodriguez homered, and a leadoff walk to Nick Swisher set up Posada’s homer.
Rodriguez’s second home run of the season gave him 1,835 RBIs, moving him past Dave Winfield on the career list and tying him with Rafael Palmeiro for 14th place.
Rodriguez later grounded into a pair of double plays. Twins star Joe Mauer went 0 for 4 and so did Span, who struck out three times and bounced into a DP.
NOTES: Twins LF Delmon Young made a diving catch to take away a two-run hit from Brett Gardner. … Teixeira was hit by a pitch in the right foot in the first. He was checked by a trainer and stayed in the game. He homered in the Yankees’ first three games, and came close with a long drive that just hooked foul in the fifth. … Gardenhire said before the game that he wanted to give closer Joe Nathan the day off. Nathan missed last year after Tommy John surgery and earned a tough save Sunday. Gardenhire plans to avoid using Nathan on back-to-back days for the first month or so. … Andruw Jones is set to make his Yankees debut Tuesday night in left field. … Girardi said he’s not worried that Phil Hughes’ velocity was down in spring training and again in his first start. Hughes topped out at 91 mph Sunday. “Let’s not make too much of four innings,” Girardi said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)