MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees won the AL East thanks largely to their bats and their bullpen.
On Monday, their gloves also made the difference, as they repeatedly took hits — sometimes extra-base hits — and runs away from the Twins, which helped them seal the ALDS with a 5-1 win in Game 3 at Target Field.
“You have to make those plays to go far in the playoffs,” Zack Britton said.
It started in the third, when Aaron Judge played the first of two balls off the wall like a veteran of the ballpark.
Jorge Polanco’s shot to right looked like a double, but Judge held him to a single. And, later in the inning, when Eddie Rosario hit a hard grounder into short right, Gleyber Torres made a sliding stop of the ball, holding Polanco at second on the play.
Then in the fourth, as Luis Severino grinded his way through four shutout innings, DJ LeMahieu snared Marwin Gonzalez’s liner down the first-base line for the third out. And when Severino left the game, the Yankees’ defense continued to pick up its pitchers.
Jake Cave opened the fifth with a ball off the wall in right off Tommy Kahnle, but Judge kept him at first.
Torres and LeMahieu saved the finest play for later in the fifth. Rosario hit a ball into right and Torres, again shifted into shallow right, made a terrific sliding stop, quickly got to his feet and fired the ball as LeMahieu — playing far off the bag — raced back to first.
Torres’ strong throw short-hopped LeMahieu, but he scooped it to get the Yankees out of a jam and maintain their two-run lead.
In the seventh, LeMahieu went too far to his right on Polanco’s grounder to the right side of the infield, but he made a diving stop and Britton managed to beat Polanco to first.
With Aroldis Chapman seemingly on the ropes, Didi Gregorius helped seal the game with a diving grab of Polanco’s liner that was headed up the middle for the second out in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yankees went with their best defensive infield in all three games in the series, with LeMahieu at first, Torres at second, Gio Urshela at third and Gregorius at shortstop, leaving Edwin Encarnacion at DH and Luke Voit on the bench.
And they survived having Giancarlo Stanton in left, where he did not move well coming back from the right knee sprain that sidelined him from June 25 to the final weeks of the regular season.