Yankees steal 2-0 lead over Twins after A-Rod ties game in 9th inning

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez stood together as Yankee Stadium roared.

Teixeira had the chills. Rodriguez had a smile that said it all -- a satisfied look after putting years of postseason failure behind him.

Teixeira hit a leadoff drive in the 11th inning to give New York a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night and a 2-0 lead in their AL playoff series. Game 2 was full of missed chances, plus a big miss by an umpire.

The first-year Yankees star connected against Jose Mijares, hitting a drive that skipped off the top of the left-field wall and into the rollicking, sellout crowd. He tossed aside his batting helmet as he approached home before being mobbed by his teammates.

"I don't think there's anything better in sports," Teixeira said. "Best place to play in the world."

Rodriguez hit a tying, two-run homer off Joe Nathan in the ninth after a leadoff single by Teixeira. Rodriguez also had his third two-out RBI single of the series as the Yankees patched together their first 2-0 postseason start since 1999 against Texas.

Before this series, the enigmatic slugger was hitless in his previous 18 playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.

"This whole year I'm playing with no expec-

tations," said Rodriguez, who missed the first month of the season after hip surgery. "I'm going out and having fun doing the best that I can."

Minnesota was hurt by a blown call by left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi in the top of the 11th. Joe Mauer started the inning with a drive down the line that appeared to go off Melky Cabrera's glove before clearly landing about a foot inside the line and bouncing into the stands.

Cuzzi said it was foul -- it's been a tough week for umpires, with several missed calls -- and Mauer ended up with a single when he should have had a ground-rule double.

"You can't see at all from the dugout, but I think we all know the ball was fair by a long ways," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Nathan was watching the play on a TV in the visiting clubhouse.

"I wasn't the only one who had a tough night," he said. "You don't know how he missed it. There's no red flag we can throw out there to get an instant replay."

Minnesota went on to load the bases with no outs but failed to score when David Robertson retired three straight batters. Delmon Young lined out to Teixeira at first, Mauer was cut down at home on Carlos Gomez's grounder and Brendan Harris flied out.

Crew chief Tim Tschida said he looked at Mauer's ball after the game and admitted it was a blown call.

"There's a guy sitting over in the umpire's dressing room right now that feels horrible," Tschida said. "Nobody feels it worse than the umpire."

Those were the last of the 17 runners the Twins stranded. They've left 26 on base in the series, and also gave away a run when Gomez committed a baserunning blunder in the fourth.

"We left a small village on base," Harris said.

Teixeira then hit New York's first game-ending shot since Aaron Boone's drive against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Andy Pettitte will try to close out the series when he faces former Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano in Game 3 on Sunday at the Metrodome.

The Yankees improved to 9-0 against the Twins this season. Minnesota has led in all six games at the Bronx, but has failed to win any of them.

Instead, the Twins saw the Yankees' 16th walkoff win of the season, most in the majors.

Nick Blackburn held New York's lineup to one run and three hits in 5 2/3 crisp innings and three relievers retired seven in a row before Nathan imploded in the ninth.

Rodriguez's mammoth drive landed in the Yankees' bullpen in left-center for his first postseason homer since Game 4 of the 2007 division series against Cleveland.

He dropped his bat after the shot, looked into his dugout and clenched his fist as he started to trot around the bases. He raised his right arm as he rounded first while the crowd of 50,006 cheered wildly, shaking New York's first-year home.

"The fun part is I was just thinking base hit," he said. "Hit the ball hard somewhere. And it went to the seats."

After a quick celebration with his teammates, Rodriguez popped his head out of the dugout for an October curtain call.

It was the eighth homer allowed by Nathan this year but first with a runner on base.

Rodriguez's single in the sixth tied it at 1 but the Twins responded in the eighth, putting runners on first and third after the first two batters were retired. Nick Punto hit an RBI single off Phil Hughes and Denard Span added another run-scoring single off Mariano Rivera.

New York's winning rally washed away all the pregame talk about A.J. Burnett and batterymate Jose Molina, who started in place of longtime Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Burnett walked five and hit two batters in his first postseason start, but allowed one run and three hits in six innings.

Minnesota had a chance to take the lead in the fourth but Gomez slipped rounding second and was tagged out before Young could score on Matt Tolbert's single.

"It's a mistake," Gomez said. "A mistake I made today cost us one run. It's my bad. That's it."

Game notes
Tolbert departed with a strained left oblique muscle. He is day to day. ... The doctor who operated on Rodriguez's right hip examined the slugger before the game and said he doesn't think the third baseman will need another operation after the season. ... It was the first crowd of more than 50,000 at the new Yankee Stadium. ... Posada, who batted for Molina in the sixth, had started every one of the Yankees' postseason games since Game 3 of the first round against the Angels in 2005.