Yankees figure out Hughes, snap losing streak
By Dan Myers, The Sports Xchange
MINNEAPOLIS -- Baffled against their former teammate through four innings Thursday, the New York Yankees lived up to their "Bronx Bomber" nickname in the fifth against the Minnesota Twins.
Carlos Beltran and Zelous Wheeler homered in a span of three batters erasing a two-run deficit and giving New York the lead for good in a 7-4 win at Target Field, snapping a five-game losing streak.
The Twins scratched two early runs across against Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees had no answers for Minnesota starter Phil Hughes until the decisive fifth inning.
After getting only one hit against Hughes through four, it took the Yankees six pitches to grab the lead. First baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Brian McCann led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Designated hitter Beltran followed with a towering drive over the right-field wall for his ninth homer of the season.
"They jumped on the first pitches there in the fifth," Hughes said. "The one big mistake of the game was to Beltran. The other at-bats, I stayed hard-in on him but I figured I'd try to get a ground-ball double play right there and throw the two-seamer. It just caught too much of the plate."
For Beltran, the homer was the 367th of his career, moving him past former Houston Astros Lance Berkman and into fourth place all-time for career home runs by a switch hitter.
Two batters later, the third baseman Wheeler who was making his major league debut, got his first career hit on a 413-foot blast into the bullpen in left-center making it a 4-2 game.
"I got ahead in the count, I think it was 3-1, so I just looked for a pitch elevated up and I put good wood on it," Wheeler said. "It felt great. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Hopefully I can take advantage of it. That's game one; I'm just going to come in and do the best I can."
Wheeler's debut Thursday came after eight years playing in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee and Baltimore organizations before finally joining the Yankees over the winter.
"It's a special night for him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's a kid who has persevered a long time. To get his opportunity and for his first hit to be a homer, and into our bullpen so he can get the ball, that's pretty special."
The Twins pushed another run across in the sixth to make the score 4-3 before New York broke through with their second big inning of the night in the seventh. Second baseman Brendan Ryan RBI double, a run-scoring single by left fielder Brett Gardner and shortstop Derek Jeter's fielder's choice made a winner out of Tanaka.
"When you continue to add to the lead, it feels good for the pitcher. Less pressure," Beltran said. "At the same time ... we have to find a way to score more runs, there's no doubt about that. We played poorly at home and hopefully this road trip, we start doing better."
The offensive support was than enough for Tanaka, who picked up his major-league leading 12th win despite posting some of the worst numbers of his brief 17-game career. For the first time since coming from Japan, Tanaka did not have a quality start and allowed nine hits and four earned runs -- both career highs -- while striking out three (a career low) over seven innings.
"He probably wasn't quite as sharp as he's been," Girardi said. "You're going to have starts like that. He did a good job of minimizing damage and giving us a chance to win."
"We put some good at-bats against him but he's tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had some good at-bats against him early in the game, got some runs. Unfortunately, we just didn't pitch good enough."
Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth inning and closer David Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth for his 19th save.
NOTES: Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira was back in the lineup Thursday after missing Wednesday's game because of soreness in his knee. ... Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury was also back in the lineup Thursday after getting a day off because of general soreness. ... The Yankees announced that LHP CC Sabathia will have another MRI on his ailing right knee after he awoke Thursday with fluid in the knee following a rehab start with Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. ... Twins INF Eduardo Escobar made his first start at shortstop since June 10, a position he has played 44 times this season. ... The Yankees selected the contract of 3B Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to the game. He started at third and batted eighth, swatting a home run in the fifth inning for his first career hit. ... Yankees 3B Yangervis Solarte was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to the game Thursday.