NEW YORK -- The "Baby Bombers" punched their ticket for a showdown with the Indians in the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, with Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge all homering to overcome Luis Severino's first-inning exit, leading the Yankees to an 8-4 victory over the Twins on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium.
On an electric evening in The Bronx, the Yankees celebrated their first playoff victory since 2012, knocking Twins starter Ervin Santana out after just two innings. Gregorius launched a game-tying three-run homer in the first, Gardner cracked a go-ahead blast in the second and Judge mashed a two-run laser off Jose Berrios in the fourth.
"We got the fans and everybody right back in the game, and from there, we kept it going," Gregorius said. "That just shows how good we are as a team. It's amazing how we feed off each other. It's a team that never gives up."
Judge's homer provided the necessary support, while manager Joe Girardi was forced to lean on his bullpen to record 26 outs behind Severino, who permitted three runs and notched just one out. Severino's departure left the Yanks in the position of needing to become the first team since the 1925 Pirates to win a winner-take-all postseason game while getting one out or fewer from its starting pitcher.
"I just wanted to do everything I could to help our team win," said David Robertson, who notched career highs with 3 1/3 innings and 52 pitches. "I felt like everyone was on board, and no one wanted the season to end tonight."
Yankees relievers held the Twins to one run over 8 2/3 innings, striking out 13. Chad Green answered the call first, firing two strong innings, and Robertson was splendid in getting the ball to Tommy Kahnle, who worked 2 1/3 clean frames. Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth inning to send the Yanks to the ALDS.
Minnesota got an immediate lift from Brian Dozier's leadoff homer, the first ever hit in a Wild Card Game, and Eddie Rosario's two-run shot later in the frame threatened to take the juice out of the building. But the Stadium thundered back to life as Santana couldn't hold that lead, and the Yankees added three runs in three innings against Berrios.
"It was a heck of a game, particularly the start," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's a good feeling to know that you have a chance to play with a lead, and you've got your best pitcher out there. But it was kind of a struggle from the start. As for Ervin just missing spots, we had a good plan, we just didn't execute it particularly well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early response: Making the first postseason appearance of his life at any level, Severino lasted just 29 pitches before yielding to the bullpen, trailing by three runs after Dozier's leadoff homer and Rosario's two-run shot. The Yankees answered immediately in the home half of the first, as Gardner walked and Judge flared a soft single to center field. One out later, Gregorius launched a three-run blast into the right-field seats, marking the shortstop's first career postseason homer.
"We wanted that momentum to stay our way," Gregorius said. "When we ended up tying the game in the first, that meant a lot for us, for the fans and the guys in the dugout. It was just amazing. From there, we kept scoring and that helped us to win the game." More >
Back on top: The Yankees claimed their first lead in the second, as Gardner was buzzed up and in by a Santana fastball, then dropped his bat to watch after cracking the next pitch into the second deck in right field. The Twins tied the game in the third as Byron Buxton legged out a run-scoring fielder's choice, but Gary Sanchez doubled and scored on a Greg Bird single in the home half of the third, providing a lead that the Yanks would not relinquish.
"There's a lot on the line in a one-game playoff like this. Anything can happen," Gardner said. "As we found out two years ago, it can all come and go pretty quick, and everything can be done. To be able to move on, it means a lot. I know that all of our guys are super excited about that."
All Rise in October: Already a lock for the AL Rookie of the Year Award and one of the front-runners for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, Judge added another memorable moment to his season tally with his first postseason home run, a two-run shot to left field off Berrios that gave New York a 7-4 lead. According to Statcast™, Judge's homer left the bat at 108.1 mph and was projected at 386 feet.
"He's just very intimidating -- the size and the strength," Molitor said. "There's just a very small margin of error." More >
"Even though we hate that it happened and we're going home unsatisfied, we learned things. We learned about how the energy is going to be in playoff games. We're a young team that's just scratching the surface to win many more years." -- Dozier
"It might have been the best atmosphere I've ever been a part of here. Our fans were just electric all night. That's one of the reasons we play so well here at home. I think our team is built for this ballpark, but I think our fans make a big difference." -- Gardner
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Judge became just the third Yankees player to homer in his postseason debut, joining Elston Howard (1955) and Shane Spencer ('98), and the first Yanks rookie to homer in the postseason since Hideki Matsui (2003).
Buxton was replaced defensively by Zack Granite for the bottom of the fourth, two innings after Minnesota's center fielder slammed his back into the wall taking an extra-base hit away from Todd Frazier. Buxton left with upper back tightness.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: The Yanks, who have not named a Game 1 starter yet, are expected to hold a workout Wednesday at Cleveland's Progressive Field before opening the ALDS against the Indians on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1. The Tribe has announced that it will pitch right-hander Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19 ERA) in the opener.