MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The New York Yankees overcame a 3-0 deficit then relied on a stingy bullpen to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 in the opener of their American League Division Series on Wednesday.
A four-run sixth inning capped by Curtis Granderson's two-run triple put the Yankees ahead, and after the Twins tied it 4-4 in the bottom of the inning, Mark Teixeira stroked a towering two-run homer down the right-field line in the seventh.
Starter CC Sabathia had walked in the tying run in the sixth on four pitches to rookie Danny Valencia with the bases loaded but was credited with the win thanks to Teixeira.
The Twins will host Game Two of the best-of-five series on Thursday.
It was a familiar story for Minnesota, who lost their 10th consecutive post-season game dating back to 2004, and have relinquished the lead in losing each of their last seven playoff games against the Yankees.
The Twins gave themselves chances over the last three innings but failed against New York's bullpen.
Yankees' evergreen closer Mariano Rivera was summoned with two outs in the bottom of the eighth with men on second and third and fell behind 3-0 in the count to Orlando Hudson before getting him to ground out weakly to short.
In the ninth, a two-out single by Delmon Young brought slugger Jim Thome to the plate as the tying run.
Thome, who led the Twins with 25 homers this season and has 589 in his career, popped out to third to end the game as Rivera notched his 40th career post-season save.
"He's amazing," said Teixeira. "We have full confidence in Mo. He's done it again and again."
The 40-year-old Rivera blew three saves in September as the team struggled down the stretch, but the slender Panamanian was at his dominant best, putting his cutter in on the batters' hands to keep them from hitting with authority.
"I definitely felt really good," Rivera told reporters after his four-out save. "Our bullpen had to come in and stop them and that's what we did."
In the seventh, reliever David Robertson struck out Thome on a curve in the dirt with two men on base to end another threat.
"Hey, we're in the playoffs," Rivera said. "That's what we work the whole season for. We have guys with a lot of experience and when it comes to the playoffs it pays off."
Michael Cuddyer put Minnesota ahead 2-0 in the second inning with a two-run blast off Sabathia.
The Twins added another run in the third when Hudson went from first to third on a Joe Mauer ground out to first baseman Teixeira, who had to dive to reach the bag before Mauer.
A passed ball by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada allowed Hudson to dash home and make it 3-0.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano was sailing along, dazzling the Yankees with his sharp-breaking slider, and had retired 10 in a row before New York knocked him out in the sixth in a rally ignited by RBI singles from Robinson Cano and Posada.
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Peter Rutherford)