Red Sox

A.L. WILD-CARD GAME: Yanks surge past Twins, 8-4, advance to ALDS

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A.L. WILD-CARD GAME: Yanks surge past Twins, 8-4, advance to ALDS

NEW YORK -- Minutes into the playoff debut for these young New York Yankees, they trailed Minnesota by three runs. Their starting pitcher lasted just one out. A sellout crowd was stunned.

Could their postseason be over almost before it began?

Nope. A strange American League wild-card game was only just beginning.

"We've had a quite a few games where we've gotten down early," Aaron Judge said. "Just keep battling. Just stay calm. Just play your game, and good things will happen."

Judge, Didi Gregorius and a brilliant bullpen rescued New York and lifted the Yankees to their first postseason victory in five years.

Gregorius' three-run homer tied the score in the first inning after Minnesota knocked out Luis Severino, a pumped-up Judge showed his most emotion this season when he hit a two-run shot in his playoff debut and the Yankees beat the Twins 8-4 Tuesday night. New York plays the Indians in a best-of-five Division Series starting Thursday.

"We're not done yet," Judge said. "We've just got to keep it rolling in Cleveland."

Brett Gardner also homered for the Yankees, who chased Ervin Santana after two innings and once again eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs.

Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman combined for 8 2/3 innings of one-run, five-hit relief, striking out 13 to tie the postseason record for a bullpen.

"It was just remarkable," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Twins manager Paul Molitor marveled at the Yankees relievers and Girardi's use of them over 142 pitches.

"He extended some guys probably past their comfort zone," the Hall of Famer said. "They still performed."

Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run and Eddie Rosario hit a two-run drive as the Twins burst to a quick lead.

But Santana went to full counts on 8 of 11 batters, and he was removed after six outs and 64 pitches with the Twins trailing 4-3.

"It's the exhilaration of jumping out," Molitor said, "and then the deflation of giving it back so quickly."

Minnesota, the first team to follow a 100-loss season with a playoff appearance, lost its 13th consecutive postseason game, tying the record set by Boston from 1986-95. The Twins have been eliminated by the Yankees in five of their last six postseason appearances and have not won a playoff series since 2002.

"Nobody expected us to be here," Byron Buxton said. "That's an amazing achievement."

New York won nine regular-season games after trailing by three runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau - including when Severino fell behind against the Twins on Sept. 20 as New York rebounded to complete a series sweep. Gregorius erased the deficit in this one four batters into the bottom of the first.

"I was hyped, and I tried to get the game going, tried to get the guys going," he said.

Judge, the 6-foot-7 sensation who set a rookie record with 52 home runs, was given a Ruthian ovation, with several sections of fans holding signs in his honor spelling out "All Rise!" He scored three runs, hitting a single to help ignite the first-inning rally, smoking a 108 mph home run off loser Jose Berrios in the fourth and walking in the seventh before coming home when Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded.

Judge shouted in excitement as he rounded first base after the homer, his face flush with emotion.

"This place was rocking. It was incredible," he said.

New York had made only one postseason appearance since 2012, losing the 2015 wild-card game to Houston 3-0. Just three Yankees who started that game were in the starting lineup, part of a Baby Bombers movement that purged the roster of veterans.

At 23, Severino was the youngest Yankees postseason starter since Andy Pettitte in 1995. The right-hander lasted only 29 pitches on a crisp autumn night and matched the Yankees' shortest postseason start, by Bob Turley in Game 2 of the 1958 World Series and Art Ditmar in the 1960 World Series opener.

Severino was shaking his head as walked to the dugout and Green replaced him with runners at second and third. Green struck out Buxton and Jason Castro , then fanned three in a row in the second.

"I think we're all ready to be in from the first to the ninth," Green said.

Robertson came in with the bases loaded in the third and allowed Buxton's RBI grounder , then struck out Castro.

Robertson tired in the sixth but earned the win, leaving after 52 pitches and 3 1/3 innings. His only longer professional outing was 3 2/3 innings for Double-A Trenton in April 2008.

Kahnle relieved with a runner on and retired Joe Mauer on a flyout to the warning track . After Kahnle threw 2 1/3 perfect innings , Chapman struck out three around a hit in the ninth.

A pitcher named Santana - Johan Santana - beat the Yankees for the Twins' last postseason win in 2004. But Ervin Santana's career postseason ERA climbed to 6.57, contributing to a first inning that lasted 45 minutes and three innings that took 1:43.

Gardner walked leading off, Judge poked a single to center and Gregorius lined a fastball over the right-field scoreboard. Brushed off the plate by a 2-2 pitch in the second, Gardner sent Santana's next offering into the second deck in right for a 4-3 lead.

Green struck out the side in the second, but left in the third after a leadoff single and two walks loaded the bases. Buxton hit into a run-scoring forceout before Robertson struck out Castro, and the Yankees went ahead for good in the bottom half when Gary Sanchez doubled off Berrios leading off and scored on Greg Bird's two-out single.

""I think we can win it all," Todd Frazier said after a draining game that took 3:51. "If we just keep doing what we've been doing, like we did today, sky's the limit."

NATIONAL ANTHEM

After a moment of silence for victims of the Las Vegas shooting , Broadway star Aaron Tveit asked fans to join him in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Players on both teams remained at attention on the field until the color guard reached the foul line. Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve, a Las Vegas native, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

WAY BACK WHEN

When the Yankees last won a postseason game, Judge was at Fresno State. Bird had just finished a season with the Class A Staten Island Yankees, Sanchez with the Class A Tampa Yankees and Severino with the Dominican Summer League Yankees.

UP NEXT

RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-12) is likely to start Thursday for the Yankees against the Indians and Trevor Bauer (17-9).

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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