Welcome back, Jason Kubel.
No, he never really left. But by essentially Yankee-ing the Yankees this afternoon he announced his presence with authority.
It looked like just another Twins game in New York for most of the afternoon. Justin Morneau boshed his ninth bomb of the season in the top of the second to give Minnesota their requisit lead-to-be-taken-away, and naturally the Yanks put up a two-spot in the bottom half of the inning. In the bottom of the fifth a Mark Teixeira fly somehow escaped Denard Span's glove in the left-center field gap, and that made it 3-1.
Nick Blackburn did exactly what the Twins needed him to do: keep them in the game against an All-Star lineup. He only faced the minimum twice across seven innings, but he struck out four, kept the ball in the park and scattered nine hits and a walk just enough to mitigate damage. This is exactly the kind of outing we've come to expect from Blackbeard over the last few seasons--the guy may not have the sexiest of stuff, but he can pitch a big game.
On the other side, Sergio Mitre was effective. After Morneau's home run in the second, the only time he didn't face the minimum was in the fifth when he escaped a runners-on-the-corners threat. The next inning, against somebody called David Robertson, Michael Cuddyer lined into a double play.
But in the eighth inning, however, the Twins took out the Yankees two best relief pitchers at the knees.
Joba Chamberlain loaded the bases off two singles and a walk: Span single, out on Hudson's fielder's choice, Mauer walk, Morneau K'd, Cuddyer two-out single. Naturally, leading 3-1, the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera to grab the four-out save.
Oh yes, the same Mariano Rivera who has been Godzilla to our Tokyo. The same Mariano Rivera who has been to Minnesota in the 2000's what Troy Percival was in the late 90's. The same Mariano Rivera who made some rookie named Jason Kubel look like a damn fool in October of 2004 (ARGH, JUAN RINCON FLASHBACK!).
Rivera proceeded to battle with Jim Thome, who worked a walk to bring the Twins within a run. Enter: Jason Kubel. Kubel knows his track record against Dr. Death. Kubel watched Rivera's first cutter dip down and in for ball one, and naturally he hurled the cutter again.
Kubel smashed it.
As Dick Bremer gave himself a hernia, Kubel's line drive took a shallow arc through the blue New York sky and landed in the right field seats. It capped off a five-run inning for the Twins, giving them a 6-3 lead.
Jon Rauch gave up back-to-back singles to kick off the ninth inning to make it interesting, but then struck out Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira to put the lid on the Yankee coffin.
Getting the team's first win in NYC since 2007? Priceless. Kubel went just 3-for-8 in the series, which is hardly enough to say he's turning his season around, but it's better than he's done most of the season. This was a great win; hell, any win against the Yankees is a great win. Hopefully this can go just a little way towards whatever that stigma is that Minnesota has against the Bombers in New York, and in general.
SB Nation game coverage
Kubel: Game-winning grand slam (.513 WPA)
Blackburn: 7 innings, 3 runs (-.006 WPA)
Mauer: No hits, but a pair of big walks (.086 WPA)
Thome: A good single, but a bigger walk (.069 WPA)
Rauch: Balling up and striking out the side to finish it (.049 WPA)
None. Everyone contributed something today.