NEW YORK -- Nothing more epitomized the Twins' role as an underdog against the Yankees than the pitching matchup, rookie left-hander Brian Duensing facing off against Yankees ace CC Sabathia.
But the hope of the Twins entering Wednesday night's American League Division Series opener at Yankee Stadium was that they could carry some of their recent momentum to offset the on-paper mismatch.
But one night after celebrating perhaps the greatest regular-season win in Metrodome history, a thrilling 12-inning affair in Game No. 163 that capped a stunning run to earn their spot in the playoffs, the AL Central champs found themselves running into a buzzsaw in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees.
So the question remained. Was it the emotional and physical fatigue following a thrilling victory that led to a letdown for Minnesota? Or was it perhaps other factors that led to the club facing yet another must-win situation in Game 2 on Friday night?
"We had a good day yesterday and a good night," Twins outfielder Denard Span said. "But in no way can you be tired this time of the year."
"I kind of think it was CC Sabathia stress," added manager Ron Gardenhire.
Following their 6-5 victory over the Tigers, the Twins had celebrated by smoking cigars and dousing each other with beer and champagne inside their clubhouse. It was a shorter than normal celebration due to the quick turnaround, with the club boarding a plane and arriving in New York around 4 a.m. ET.
Early in the contest, the Twins showed no wear from the previous evening.
Duensing looked solid over his first two innings, allowing just a leadoff single to Derek Jeter in the first before retiring seven straight batters. And Minnesota took a 2-0 lead off Sabathia in the third thanks to three straight two-out hits.
Brian Duensing joined Les Straker and Boof Bonser as just the third rookie to start a postseason game for the Twins. Here is how each of the three fared in their postseason debut for Minnesota.
Orlando Cabrera got the string started with a single to right field. Joe Mauer followed with a double to the left-center gap, putting runners on second and third for Michael Cuddyer, who delivered an RBI single to right field to put the Twins on the board first. Another run would score in the inning when Sabathia and catcher Jorge Posada appeared to get crossed up on a passed ball that allowed Mauer to score from third, even as he stopped halfway down the line on the play.
But the lead didn't last long, and the Twins' early energy seemed to fade as well.
With one out and a runner on second in the bottom half of the third, Duensing hung a slider that Jeter pulled into the left-field bleachers. The two-run shot to knot the game at 2 was Jeter's 18th postseason home run, tying him for third all-time with Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
"Our guys were into it," Gardenhire said. "We were battling pretty good. I think the big thing is you get a two-run lead quick, and as soon as you go back out, it's a 2-2 ballgame with a homer. That's a little deflating. ... And Jeter does what he does best. He got his team right back in it."
THE 1-0 SERIES
The advantage of winning Game 1 of a Division Series is far more pronounced in the National League than in the American League since DS play began in 1995.
Records of teams going up 1-0:
All DS 39-17
All Series 153-84
Teams to come back from 1-0 in ALDS:
2006 Tigers (lost World Series)
2005 Angels (lost ALCS)
2004 Yankees (lost ALCS)
2003 Red Sox (lost ALCS)
2003 Yankees (lost World Series)
2002 Angels (won World Series)
2001 Yankees (lost World Series)
2001 Mariners (lost ALCS)
2000 Yankees (won World Series)
1999 Red Sox (lost ALCS)
1998 Indians (lost ALCS)
1997 Indians (lost World Series)
1996 Yankees (won World Series)
1995 Mariners (lost ALCS)
The Yankees took the lead in the fourth when Nick Swisher drove in Robinson Cano from first with a two-out double down the left-field line. But the next inning saw Duensing's outing unravel. He issued a leadoff walk to Jeter and then gave up a two-out RBI single to Alex Rodriguez, who snapped an 0-for-19 streak with runners in scoring position in postseason play.
Duensing (0-1) was replaced by Francisco Liriano following Rodriguez's single. Facing Hideki Matsui, Liriano left a 93-mph fastball up in the zone, and Matsui drove it out to center field for his fourth career home run in a Division Series and a 6-2 Yankees lead.
And as the Bombers' lineup started to get hot, so, too, did Sabathia, who settled in with the large lead.
After Cuddyer's single in the third, Sabathia retired 11 of the next 12 batters. He faced a little bit of a scare in the seventh, when he had runners on second and third with one out, but he escaped the inning unscathed. Sabathia (1-0) finished the night allowing two runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings.
"You could see him, once they tied it up and got the lead, he really found another gear," said Brendan Harris of Sabathia. "He was pretty effective and shut us down from there."
The Twins now get a day to recover following what has been a crazy 48 hours. They won't hold an official workout on Thursday, allowing the players to get a full day of relaxation.
A second successive loss -- and their sixth at Yankee Stadium this season -- would put the Twins in a 2-0 hole and on the brink of elimination in the five-game series. But Minnesota didn't seem too concerned about needing to overcome another deficit, considering the road it has already traveled just to get to this point.
"We've had our backs against the walls for a couple weeks now," Mauer said. "You know, it's a not a position you want to be in, but we've been familiar with it. We are still going to go out there and play the game hard -- the way we always have."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.