10/07/2010 10:57 PM ET
Newcomers help lead Yanks in Game 2
Berkman, Granderson and Wood all solid vs. Twins
By Sam Borden / SNY.tv
Lance Berkman homered and doubled in the Yankees 5-2 win over the Twins in Game 2. (AP)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Everyone knows about the old guys, the "core four," the players who have been wearing pinstripes forever. Everyone has seen them get big hits, get big outs, win big games. Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera. Jorge Posada. Andy Pettitte. They have been winning here for what feels like decades.

Here is the thing though: They can't do it alone. Each year Brian Cashman tries to find the right mix of offseason moves and late-summer trades and on this Thursday night -- this Game 2 against the Twins -- the Yankees saw their newcomers stand out.

Was it all them? Hardly. Pettitte pitched a gem and Rivera got his second save as the Yankees pushed to the verge of another sweep. But without Lance Berkman or Curtis Granderson or Kerry Wood, the Twins might have found themselves right back in this series instead of staring at yet one more beating from the Yankees.

Start with Granderson, who has been a new hitter since re-tooling his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in late August. After crushing a monstrous two-run triple in Game 1, Granderson went 3-for-4 with a RBI, a run and a sacrifice in the 5-2 Game 2 win.

Berkman, who is in a DH platoon with Marcus Thames, tied the game with a solo home run in the fifth inning and then took advantage of a borderline ball-strike call by plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt that kept him at the plate by ripping a RBI double to deep center that gave the Yankees the lead.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would ultimately be ejected for arguing with Wendelstedt, but Berkman said he thought it was a reasonable call. Either way, he wasn't apologizing for jumping on Carl Pavano's next pitch and launching it over Denard Span's head.

"Anytime you go to a new team with a new group of guys, regardless whether it is New york or Kansas City, it will take some time to get adjusted," said Berkman. "You don't feel like you're part of the team until you have done something to help the team ... I just want to be able to contribute and maybe help us win a few games here in October."

After Berkman's hit, Wood -- the former starter (and closer) with the Cubs -- came on for a dominant eighth inning in which he struck out J.J. Hardy looking, got a tapper back to the mound from Span and then struck out Orlando Hudson swinging.

Wood needed only 10 pitches to get through the inning, throwing nine of them for strikes.

"I'll take that every time out," he said afterward, adding that he was pleased to have such a clean performance after being lifted with two outs in the eighth in favor of Rivera in Game 1.

"It was nice to actually do it and not have Mo come in for a four-out save," Wood said. "That's our job. I'm confident and you like to be confident this time of year."

That feelings seems to permeate around the Yankees clubhouse, even among the newer players. Jeter said it helps that Granderson, Berkman and Wood are all veterans, but there's no denying that trying to make a run through October with the Yankees carries a different set of pressures.

"Having the opportunity to make an impact so early in the division series can only help the newcomers," Jeter said.

"You come to a clubhouse with so many big-name players -- it's an All-Star team," Berkman said. "Every one of those guys is unbelievable ... But really (there are) not a lot of big egos. It is not the clubhouse environment I expected at all."

Of course, it helps a new player if he makes an impact. Granderson struggled for much of the regular season before turning it on late, while Berkman and Wood both had their ups and downs shortly after arriving with the Yankees.

None of that matters now. "There's one goal," Jeter said, and it's the truth. Trade deadline pick-up or legendary Yankee, it doesn't really matter. New or old, the end of the road remains the same.

Sam Borden is an award-winning columnist for LoHud.com and The Journal News and is a contributor to SNY.tv.
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