NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter got a big hit, just as he did in Octobers past at the famed ballpark across the street. CC Sabathia joined in the postseason fun. Even Alex Rodriguez broke out of his playoff rut.
"It felt just like the old place," Jeter said. "We couldn't have drawn it up any better for us."
After Jeter's third-inning homer off loser Brian Duensing drew New York even at 2, Nick Swisher pulled a go-ahead double down the left-field line in the fourth that scored Robinson Cano from first as left fielder Delmon Young and shortstop Orlando Cabrera made a pair of poor throws.
Rodriguez had gone 0 for 29 in the postseason with runners on base dating to Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series before chasing Duensing with an RBI single that made it 4-2 in the fifth.
From there the Yankees breezed to their first postseason win in exactly two years.
On a night with sustained winds blowing to right-center at 20 mph, with gusts up to 43 mph, Hideki Matsui followed with a two-run homer into Monument Park on left-hander Francisco Lirano's fourth pitch. The Yankees celebrated like kids, just as the Twins did when they beat Detroit in an AL Central tiebreaker at the Metrodome on Tuesday night.
"Crazy. Nuts," Swisher said. "Everyone knows I'm a little hyper. Probably the hardest thing was keeping myself under control."
Rodriguez added another run-scoring single in the seventh against Jon Rauch following an error by first baseman Michael Cuddyer, with A-Rod's drive hitting halfway up the right-field wall. New York scored five runs with two outs.
"It definitely felt good," Rodriguez said. "There's no questions the numbers aren't good, but you've got to come out and play."
• Series: Yankees 1, Twins 0
Wearing long sleeves on the blustery night, Sabathia got past a 22-pitch first inning and found a sharp cutter in his Yankees postseason debut.
"This is what you come here for," Sabathia said. "It was electric tonight."
Despite retiring the side in order just twice, Sabathia allowed one earned run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none.
"He got nasty. He was deceiving," Minnesota's Denard Span said.
Sabathia, who twice got crossed up with catcher Jorge Posada, left with two on after 113 pitches. He tipped his cap to a ballpark record crowd of 49,464 that included actress Kate Hudson and rapper Jay-Z.
Jeter's home run had inspired the big lefty.
"The place got loud," Sabathia said. "Him starting out the game with a single and then tying the score up right back, it just made me want to go out there and get three quick outs."
Minnesota didn't arrive at its hotel until nearly 4 a.m. and appeared to lack the energy that propelled the Twins during a 17-4 finish. The Twins struck out 12 times.
"Guys are tired," AL batting champ Joe Mauer said before adding, "this isn't the time of year for that, to be worrying about that."
After a day off, the series resumes Friday night, when A.J. Burnett pitches for the Yankees against Nick Blackburn. New York will be trying to get off to its first 2-0 postseason start since 1999 against Texas.
"We all need to go home, get a good night's rest," said Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, who will start Game 3. "We're going to be a little fresher, I'm sure, on Friday."
Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the third when Cabrera singled with two outs, Mauer doubled, Cuddyer hit an RBI single and Posada crossed up with Sabathia and allowed a run-scoring passed ball.
Casey Stengel hit the first postseason home run across the street at original Yankee Stadium, an inside-the-parker that gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win in the 1923 World Series opener.
Jeter tied the score with a drive about 10 feet fair down the left-field line. With his 18th postseason home run, he tied Yankees stars Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for third on the career list behind Manny Ramirez (28) and Bernie Williams (22), another former New York star
"You get a two-run lead quick, and as soon as you go back out, it's a 2-2 ballgame with a homer," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's a little deflating."
The captain was on base four times with two hits and two walks, and scored three runs.
"It's pretty fitting what he did tonight," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, managing his first postseason game since replacing Joe Torre two years ago. "That's Derek Jeter at this time of the year."
A left-hander who pitched for the U.S. in the Olympics last year, Duensing had never even been to New York before and made just nine starts during his rookie season.
"I wish that we could go hire a right-hander to come in and eat them all up," Gardenhire said. "But we have a few left-handers that have to pitch. That's just the way it is."
Duensing gave up five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"The crowd was into it. An unbelievable atmosphere," Duensing said. "Just wished it would have turned out a little better."
- Matsui has seven postseason homers. He hit 13 off left-handers during the regular season, tied for big league lead among left-handed batters.
- Phil Hughes followed Sabathia and struck out Cabrera in a 10-pitch at-bat. Mariano Rivera, New York's fourth reliever, struck out two in the ninth.