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Yankees Rally to Defeat Twins

May 12, 2002

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Robin Ventura was in a 1-for-19 slump, facing one of the league’s best closers with a tie game in the ninth inning. His New York teammates weren’t that surprised by the result.

Ventura hit a two-run homer against Minnesota’s Eddie Guardado to lead the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Twins on Saturday night and their fifth straight win.

``He’s one of those guys who gives sort of a calming presence to the whole lineup,″ said Bernie Williams, who had a single, double and triple _ three of his team’s eight hits.

``Nothing really rattles him,″ Williams said.

Guardado (0-1) gave up a double to Williams with one out before hanging a slider to Ventura, who hit a towering shot to right for his eighth homer of the season. On his way to the dugout, Ventura pointed up to the broadcast booth at Yankees TV announcer Michael Kay.

``He was getting on me today because I hadn’t had an extra-base hit in a while,″ Ventura said. ``We had this deal, if I got an extra-base hit, it would be because of him.″

Ventura, the veteran left-handed hitter acquired by the Yankees this winter from the crosstown Mets, is batting .357 against lefties this season.

Still, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t hesitate to stick with Guardado, who hasn’t blown a save in 12 chances and has an ERA of 2.12 in his first full season as a closer.

``I take my chances with Eddie Guardado against these guys,″ Gardenhire said.

Guardado didn’t look up when Ventura connected.

``I knew it was gone,″ Guardado said. ``What are you going to do? I made a mistake. It happens. I just have to keep my chin up and come out strong the next time I get an opportunity.″

The crowd of 43,465 _ the Twins’ largest for a non-opening day, pre-summer game since April 1992 _ left disappointed when Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 14 tries.

``He’s still nasty,″ Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter said.

Mike Stanton (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the Yankees, who squandered a chance to take the lead in the eighth when pinch-runner Gerald Williams was thrown out at the plate on Nick Johnson’s grounder to second with the infield in.

Twins starter Kyle Lohse went 6 1-3 innings, surrendering a season-low three hits, two runs and two walks while striking out five.

Derek Jeter scored on a double-play grounder by Williams in the fourth. Then Lohse retired nine straight until Williams tripled off the left-field wall in the seventh.

Dustan Mohr could’ve played the carom, but he let it bounce past him and roll all the way back toward shortstop. Williams then scored on a single up the middle by Ventura with the infield in.

Ted Lilly pitched 5 2-3 innings, allowing four hits, two runs and two walks in his fourth start of the season. He’ll stay in the rotation, manager Joe Torre said, and start next Saturday against the Twins at Yankee Stadium.

``He was very smooth,″ Hunter said.

Lilly retired 11 straight between Mohr’s leadoff single and Matthew LeCroy’s double in the fourth. LeCroy scored, tying the game at 1, after Bobby Kielty’s line drive to left-center field nearly hit him and buzzed past Jeter at short for a single.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz has a sore wrist and didn’t start so, with two other starters getting a rest and three more on the disabled list, the Twins had only three regulars in the lineup and provided little challenge for Lilly until the sixth.

Torii Hunter double with one out and took third on LeCroy’s groundout. Kielty walked, and that was it for Lilly.

Ramiro Mendoza relieved, and Brian Buchanan beat out a sharp grounder to Ventura at third base for an infield hit that scored Hunter and gave the Twins a 2-1 lead.

But scoring more against New York’s bullpen was too tough.

``We basically threw everything we had at them,″ Gardenhire said. ``It just didn’t work out.″

Notes: Mientkiewicz and Hunter, with their families looking on, received their 2001 Gold Glove awards in a pregame ceremony that included a video of their defensive highlights shown on the scoreboard. The trophies were on display in the lower concourse during the game so fans could see them. ... Johnson returned to the lineup after a two-day break. He went 0-for-4 and is batting .196. ... Castillo is hitless in 14 at-bats this year. ... The Twins lost their first home series of the year.

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