MINNEAPOLIS — The good news is Adam Ottavino does not have to worry about facing Nelson Cruz anymore. The Yankees made sure of that by beating the Twins 5-1 Monday night at Target Field and sweeping the ALDS.
The bad news is Ottavino came up empty in two big spots against the Twins’ biggest threat during the series.
Twice, the right-handed reliever was called on to face the right-handed hitting Cruz with a runner on first and two outs. Twice, he issued a free pass and then took a spot in the dugout with a short leash in the high-leverage spot.
Ottavino said he didn’t know he would only get one batter each time, though he did get a full inning in Game 2, tossing a scoreless frame with an 8-1 lead.
“My job is to get that first guy out and obviously I didn’t do it,” Ottavino said. “I didn’t do any damage. I just didn’t give in, basically.”
On Monday, Ottavino threw just four pitches, all of them missing the strike zone as Cruz kept his bat on his shoulder. Cruz was not fooled by three sliders or the fastball that came in low and outside for ball four. Ottavino had replaced Tommy Kahnle in the fifth inning, protecting a 2-0 lead, but got yanked after walking Cruz, who represented the tying run.
“The first [slider], just in case he was sitting on it, I tried to throw it borderline. He had a good take,” said Ottavino, who posted a 1.90 ERA in 66 ¹/₃ innings during the regular season. “Second one I thought was a strike, I didn’t get the call. Then after that, I just didn’t want to give in. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Chad Green had Ottavino’s back, though, coming on to get Eddie Rosario to ground out to Gleyber Torres in shallow right field to end the inning.
On Friday, Ottavino entered in relief of James Paxton with the go-ahead run on first base in the fifth inning of a 3-3 game. Ottavino got ahead in the count 0-2, but then came back with four straight balls to put Cruz on first. Kahnle came on next and bailed him out of that jam.
“They’ve been doing it all year,” Ottavino said of his fellow relievers. “We’re good as a group, so that’s the key.”