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Over the Baggy

Twins win 7-3, shake Yankee Stadium monkey off of their back

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The 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees on Monday night was one that helped knock the collective monkey off of their backs for the Minnesota Twins. After all, Yankee Stadium – be it the original or this new theme park – has long given the Twins fits.

Individually, too, Twins players shrugged off the load that had been weighing them down to lead to the third win of the season.

Carl Pavano, who became a pariah in the five boroughs after his disabled tenure with the Yankees, proved that he’s advanced beyond simply being a punch line.

Sure, he allowed two back-to-back home runs to start the game and quickly coughed up the 2-0 lead the Twins provided him, yet he remained calm and hit his spots – specifically that spot two-and-a-half inches off of the plate that umpire Gerry Davis was giving him. He worked in a devastating change-up that he buried on his opponents, getting them to miss on seven of the 26 he threw.

After a series against Texas in which he went 1-for-12 with five strikeouts, people were starting to get restless about Justin Morneau’s recovery. Offensively, he looked overmatched and, as Nick Nelson examined, his plate discipline numbers were the truly worrisome part.

A year ago, one of Morneau’s biggest problems was pulling open off the pitch and leaving the outer half of the plate wide open for opposing pitchers. Nevertheless, positioned at first base tonight, Morneau appeared much more dialed in following his first at bat. In his third trip to the plate, Morneau timed a Freddy Garcia “fastball” perfectly and launched a shot into the Yankees’ bullpen area. After the game, Morneau told FSN’s Robby Incmikoski that following his first plate appearance of the night, he told himself to consciously wait back.

Coming into Monday night’s game, Joe Mauer was holding a ground ball rate over 60%. That tape measure shot he sent into the stands against the Angels seemed like a distance memory as the Rangers kept the Twins catcher from doing much elevating. He finished the last series going 2-for-10 while grounding into two double plays – bringing his season total of twin killings to MLB-leading four. Answering some of his critics, Mauer smacked a double to left in the first and followed that up with a double to right in the fifth inning.

Danny Valencia, who had been chastised by his manager in 2011 for failing to take the ball the other way, came up in the eighth inning with the Twins holding a decent but never comfortable two-run lead in the Bronx.

In addition to becoming too pull happy a year ago, Valencia’s weakness against right-handed pitching was also exposed. On the first pitch from the right-handed reliever Corey Wade – a slider running away from the zone, no less – Valencia stayed back and laced the ball into the right-center field gap, scoring Ryan Doumit from first and gave the Twins some more breathing room.

All in all, it was certainly a confidence building win for the Minnesota Twins and has set a good tone for the rest of the four game series in New York.
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