“I’m sure the pace of play was Commissioner (Rob) Manfred’s delight there,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor.
It took a while, but it also gave these playoffs an exhilarating, exhausting beginning — one that ended in an 8-4 New York victory.
Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario homered for Minnesota to help chase New York ace Luis Severino after just one out, but the Yankees got all those runs back on a three-run shot from Didi Gregorius in the bottom half.
The first inning included 81 pitches, seven full counts, two mound visits and a historic pitching change.
Severino matched the shortest start by a Yankees pitcher in postseason history — joining Art Ditmar (three earned runs) from Game 1 of the 1960 World Series and Bob Turley (four earned runs) in Game 2 of the 1958 World Series. It was also the shortest outing in a winner-take-all postseason game since Game 5 of an AL Division Series in 2000, when Oakland’s Gil Heredia got only one out against the Yankees, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“It’s not how you draw it up, I can tell you that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Dozier drove Severino’s fifth pitch just over the wall in left field for the first leadoff homer in Twins postseason history. Three batters and a mound visit from Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later, Rosario hit a two-run drive that narrowly cleared the fence in right.
At that point — 17 pitches into Severino’s night — reliever Chad Green started stretching in the bullpen.
A single and a double later, Severino’s day was done.
Fans booed the 23-year-old All-Star as he walked off, but teammates gathered around for hugs and encouragement as he entered the dugout.
Green quickly restored a playoff energy to Yankee Stadium, striking out Byron Buxton and Jason Castro with runners at second and third to escape the jam.
Then the Yankees went to work on Twins starter Ervin Santana. Brett Gardner walked, Aaron Judge — showered with “MVP!” chants — poked a 3-2 pitch into center for a single and, two batters later, Gregorius drove another full-count pitch into the right-field seats.
“I think the character was shown in the way we fought back and answered in the first inning,” Girardi said.
Gregorius flipped his bat to the ground and put his head down, then looked into the Yankees dugout, screamed and flexed. Todd Frazier was there at the railing, pointing and shouting. Judge rounded the bases with a big grin and waited for Gregorius at the plate.
Santana labored more from there. He ran five full counts in a span of seven hitters, and Minnesota had Jose Berrios and Alan Busenitz warming in the bullpen after Gregorius’ homer.
Santana got Aaron Hicks to ground out two batters later, though, escaping the inning after 42 pitches.
“Deflating,” Molitor said.
Follow Jake Seiner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jake_seiner
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball