With their roster decimated by injuries — and their lead in the AL East looking unsteady — the Yankees trotted out a pair of lineups for Wednesday’s doubleheader that were more suited for a spring training road game than for The Bronx in September.
Against the hapless Twins, it didn’t matter, as the Yankees turned to some unlikely heroes in a sweep of the twin bill, with Oswaldo Cabrera’s two-out single to left in the 12th capping a 5-4 win in the first game and Isiah Kiner-Falefa blasting a grand slam in the second game, a 7-1 victory, with Gerrit Cole striking out a season-high 14.
Lucas Luetge fanned Carlos Correa with two on to end the top of the seventh to chants of “cheater” from what was left of the announced crowd of 30,157. And the slumping Aaron Hicks sealed it with a three-run double.
With the sweep, the Yankees have won four straight after dropping six of seven. And they bumped their lead back to five games in the AL East over the Rays, who beat the Red Sox.
The Yankees didn’t make it easy on themselves in the first game, going hitless with runners in scoring position until the 12th.
But after the Twins went ahead by a run in the top of the 12th, Kiner-Falefa led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle to score automatic runner Marwin Gonzalez from second to tie the game. After Estevan Florial struck out, Kiner-Falefa stole second and moved to third on Jose Trevino’s single to right.
Kiner-Falefa was held at third and Trevino got to second after inducing a rundown.
Oswald Peraza flied to left, but not deep enough to score Kiner-Falefa before Cabrera delivered the game-winner.
Cabrera had earlier thrown out a runner at home and snapped an 0-for-25 skid with his game-winner.
“He’s having competitive at-bats,” Aaron Boone said. “I love his poise and makeup. He’s not afraid.”
The Yankees squandered chances to win in both the ninth and 10th, as they had Kiner-Falefa on third after a two-out single, stolen base and error by Gary Sanchez and Florial hit what looked like a game-winning hit up the middle, but Correa made a terrific stop and better throw to get Florial at first.
In the 10th, after the Twins had Gilberto Celestino thrown out at home for the first out — and Correa on deck — the Yankees had first and second with one out and Aaron Judge — who’d hit his 55th homer of the season earlier — on deck, when Cabrera hit into an inning-ending double play.
And with the bases loaded and no one out in the 11th, Ronald Guzman hit into a double play and pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez grounded to short.
“These are capable guys and opportunity knocks,’’ Boone said before the doubleheader. “I felt like we were in these [injury] situations a lot in 2019. These are talented players that have a chance to come up and do something to help us win important games.”
After Domingo German gave up three runs in the first four innings, he settled down the next two.
Judge’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth cut the Yankees’ deficit to 3-1, as he continues to be a one-man offense for the slumping lineup.
Judge came up again with one on and one out in the sixth, after Varland was removed following a single by Peraza and a strikeout of Oswaldo Cabrera.
With right-hander Griffin Jax on the mound, the Twins still decided to pitch to Judge and he popped to second.
But Gleyber Torres then hit one into the seats in left to tie the game at 3-3.
In the second game, Cole went 6 ²/₃ innings — throwing a season-high 118 pitches — and allowed just a solo homer to Correa in the third.
The Yankees didn’t get a hit off Joe Ryan until Cabrera dunked a single into right after Torres walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
A walk by Gonzalez loaded the bases for Kiner-Falefa, who came through with runners in scoring position again, this time with the first grand slam of his career to make it 4-1.