Valencia's growth apparent in Game 1

Valencia's growth apparent in Game 1

MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Valencia has already put up a track record that warrants caution when facing him with the bases loaded. But Yankees starter CC Sabathia might've been a little too cautious.

Sabathia located four pitches outside the strike zone, hoping to get a rookie hitter with an early power surge and a more recent slump to chase at one or two and find an easy route back into the count. Valencia took all four and ended up with his second bases-loaded walk in his brief Major League career. This one brought in the tying run in the sixth inning.

"My first two at-bats didn't look good, but I saw all the pitches he had," Valencia said. "So, I knew going into my third at-bat that he would probably try to pitch me the same way, because he's been real successful. He was going to throw a lot of offspeed. I was able to get ahead in the count, and from there on, I was just taking until he could throw a strike. It worked out, got a walk."

The one pitch that was truly close enough for Valencia to pause was a 2-0 offspeed delivery at the knees around the outside corner. Valencia didn't offer, and he got the call he wanted from home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford. But Valencia said it wasn't an automatic that he would take in that situation.

"I was green light on 2-0," Valencia said. "I was thinking if he throws me a fastball over the plate, I'm going to swing in that situation. He threw me another changeup down and away. Obviously, it was 3-0, and from there on, I was taking until he at least threw me a strike."

It continued an impressive streak for Valencia when the bags get full. He went 4-for-7 with two grand slams and 12 RBIs in those situations during the regular season, including a first-inning blast off Jeremy Bonderman a couple of weeks ago in Detroit. The fact that Wednesday's walk came after Valencia struck out in each of his first two at-bats made it a little more impressive.

"You have to slow yourself down a little bit," he said. "A lot of people come into those situations and try to do too much. I try to slow the game down. In most situations like that, they're not, for the most part, going to give me something good to hit. Bases loaded, they're not just going to throw a pitch over the middle of the plate for you to crush. Patience in those situations, I feel, works out better for a hitter."

Valencia put a ball in play his next time up and ended up with an infield single to continue an eighth-inning rally off Kerry Wood. Pinch-runner Matt Tolbert replaced him.