With injuries to star players and a rotation still trying to congeal, the Yankees aren’t the invincible Bronx Bombers right now.
New York, however, has been matched up this week with a mistake-prone Twins team.
The Yankees eased past the Twins 7-3 on Tuesday night and have won the first two games of this four-game series with staff ace CC Sabathia ready to take the ball on Wednesday at Target Field. The Twins have dropped three consecutive and eight of their past 11.
Their offense sputtered, failing again in run-scoring opportunities. Righthander Samuel Deduno, who gave up three runs over six innings, was the best thing the Twins had going. But reliever Anthony Swarzak gave up four runs in the seventh as the Yankees put the game away.
Deduno retired the first 10 batters he faced, eight on ground balls. The Twins scored their first run in the third inning when Aaron Hicks, in his first game back since replacing the injured Josh Willingham on the roster, doubled off the right field wall. Ichiro Suzuki looked as if he had a bead on the ball but pulled up and played it off the wall. Joe Mauer, breaking an 0-for-18 slump, singled to right to drive in Hicks.
The Twins blew a chance for a big inning in the fourth when Trevor Plouffe walked and Oswaldo Arcia doubled to put runners on second and third with no one out against Yankees righthander Phil Hughes.
But the next batter, Chris Parmelee, struck out looking.
“We need to put the ball in play there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They had everyone back with Parmelee there, and that’s a big opportunity. We need to put the ball in play.
“We can’t get caught looking there. Anything close you’ve got to fight them off.”
Hicks followed Parmelee with another strikeout, unable to check his swing.
“We need contact there,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the guys’ jobs there.”
Robinson Cano got the first Yankees hit with a one-out single in the fourth. In the fifth, Alberto Gonzalez hit a two-run double into the right field corner to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Ichiro then beat out an infield hit as Gonzalez scored to make it 3-1.
Deduno had fielded his position impeccably to that point, assisting on four putouts. But he was too quick trying grab Ichiro’s tapper down the first base line and muffed what would have been the final out of the inning.
“It was a little bit tough,” Deduno said. “It was too fast.”
Deduno (4-3) gave up three runs on five hits and one walk over six innings, but he needed 102 pitches to get there.
Swarzak replaced Deduno and gave up four runs, three on Cano’s drive over the seats in right to give the Yankees a 7-1 lead. Mariano Rivera got a two-pitch save in the ninth after the Twins scored twice. Phil Hughes (4-7) went seven innings to get the win.
“We’re getting some pitches up,” Gardenhire said, “and it seems like every time we do it, it flies somewhere.’’