Yankees Take Game Two from Twins

It was the shining New York moment Alex Rodriguez had been waiting for since February. Rodriguez homered, singled twice and hit a game-tying ground rule double off Joe Nathan in the 12th inning as the New York Yankees overcame a one-run deficit in extra innings to down the Minnesota Twins Wednesday, 7-6.

Both game two starters Jon Lieber and Brad Radke struggled early out of the gate. Lieber, in his first career post-season start in 10 seasons, allowed three earned runs in the first two innings as Minnesota jumped out to an early 3-1 lead. Justin Morneau doubled with two away in the first, scoring Jacque Jones to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Morneau was thrown out trying to advance to third on the play, however.

A Derek Jeter homerun tied it in the bottom of the first and in the second, a one-out single from Michael Cuddyer put the Twins back on top at 2-1. An RBI sac fly from catcher Henry Blanco then made it 3-1.

Rodriguez singled with one away in the third to set the stage for Gary Sheffield's first homerun of the post-season, a two-run blast down the left field line off Radke that tied it at three apiece. In the fifth, it was A-Rod to the rescue once more as Rodriguez connected on the first pitch he saw from Radke to put the Yankees on top for the first time all evening at 4-3.

In the seventh, Rodriguez. Again. Miguel Cairo walked with one away against Radke before a Jeter sacrifice to third moved the second baseman into scoring position with two down. Rodriguez then hit a softly-lined single into left center, bringing home Cairo to make it 5-3.

Chants of "M-V-P!" ran aloud throughout Yankee Stadium periodically throughout the night thanks to Rodriguez' heroics, but things were far from over in the eighth--even with Mariano Rivera on the hill. Tom Gordon retired Shannon Stewart on a fly ball to open the inning and then struck out Jones, but threw a wild pitch to first to allow the right fielder to reach base.

Gordon then allowed a single to Torii Hunter before Rivera took over and allowed Morneau's second run-scoring hit of the night, a single to right plating Jones that made it 5-4. Moments later, Corey Koskie's ground rule double down the left field line scored Hunter to tie it.

It was only Rivera's third blown save in 33 career post-season chances and his first ever at Yankee Stadium, ending a perfect 12-for-12 streak.

In extra innings, Hunter cracked his 24th homerun overall in 2004, a solo drive to deep left off Tanyon Sturtze in the 12th that put Minnesota back on top for the first time since the third inning at 6-5.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, a veteran of New York from his playing days with the Mets, decided to play the odds with his closer Nathan (0-1) in the bottom of the 12th. The right-hander had already tossed two scoreless innings of relief entering the 12th, but Gardenhire decided to let him finish it off.

What transpired was Nathan (0-1) taking the same path as Rivera in regards to blown saves. He struck out John Olerud to open the inning but then sailed nine straight balls en route to walking Cairo and Jeter, and falling behind Rodriguez 1-0. After Nathan's second pitch to the superstar third baseman nipped the inside corner for a strike, Rodriguez proceeded to crush Nathan's next offering to deep left center for a ground rule double, scoring Cairo to tie the game at 6-6 and just missing a game-ending three-run homer by inches.

Gardenhire then opted for left-hander J.C. Romero, who threw only one pitch to Hideki Matsui who ended it with one swing, resulting in a game-winning RBI line drive sac fly to Jones in right that scored Jeter for the winning run.

It was the Yankees' 62nd come from behind win overall this season, a major league best. Right-hander Paul Quantrill (1-0) got the win in relief, retiring rookie Jason Kubel on a groundball. Kubel finished the night 0-for-6. Neither Lieber nor Radke factored in the decision. Lieber settled down nicely after a shaky start, allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out four and allowed seven hits. Meanwhile, Radke went 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on eight hits.

Nathan, the tough-luck loser, threw 53 pitches in 2 1/3 innings en route to the loss.

Game three of the best-of-five series shifts to the Metrodome in Minneapolis beginning Friday when Kevin Brown squares off against 14-game winner Carlos Silva at 7:05 CT. Broadcast coverage will be provided by ESPN.

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