NEW YORK – By the time Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez came up with RBI singles in the eighth inning on Friday, the damage had already been done.
And the Twins did it without stringing together hits. Without situational excellence. Little ball, schmittleball.
A rare power surge from the Twins pushed them past the Yankees to a 6-1 victory, getting their five-game road trip off to a proper start. Oswaldo Arcia, Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe all went deep off Yankees lefthander Vidal Nuno and helped Ricky Nolasco win for the first time this month.
For all the troubles the Twins have had in the Bronx through Ron Gardenhire’s tenure as manager, times are changing a little. After Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth, it made the Twins 5-3 in Yankee Stadium since the end of the 2011 season.
It’s the first time the Twins have hit three home runs in a game since Sept. 10 of last season, against Oakland. Both Willingham and Arcia have two home runs since returning to the lineup on Monday, showing they can be a significant boost to a punchless offense.
“It makes a big difference,” said Plouffe, who hit his fourth home run of the season. “Those are two guys in the middle of our order we didn’t have a couple weeks ago. Hammer is a guy who has a track record. He’s going to do what he does. Arcia has shown he can do that. He can carry a team at times. That’s something big for us.”
The Twins’ bats hit the road in bad shape. The offense averaged 2.5 runs a game and batted .182 with runners in scoring position during a 1-3 homestand. So Gardenhire decided to juggle his lineup. Danny Santana, subbing in center while Aaron Hicks nursed a sore back, batted leadoff. Brian Dozier, the leadoff hitter in 49 of the Twins’ 51 games before Friday, dropped down to the No. 2 hole with Joe Mauer batting third.
Plouffe, batting .204 over his previous 25 games, dropped down to the sixth spot in the order.
“We wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Gardenhire said. “[Santana] can run, he can bunt, he can do all those things.”
Santana ended up out of the game in the third inning after he doubled and stole third. While he was stealing third, his helmet slipped off his head, bounced off the ground and hit him in the face, causing a laceration of his upper left eyelid that required seven stitches. Hicks replaced Santana.
The Twins opened the scoring in the second when Arcia homered into the second deck in right field. Jacoby Ellsbury’s RBI double in the third tied the score, but the Twins struck for three runs in the fourth.
Willingham led off the inning by hammering a 1-2 fastball from Nuno into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center. Arcia reached on a bloop single to center, and Plouffe followed with a two-run blast over the center field wall. for a 4-1 lead.
“When he made a mistake they made him pay,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Twins padded their lead in the eighth behind RBI singles from Suzuki and Nunez.
Nolasco (3-5) wasn’t sharp. Only 59 of his 107 pitches were for strikes, and he threw first-pitch strikes to only 10 of the 26 batters he faced over six innings. But he stayed out of the middle of the plate and stranded two runners on base in both the first and third innings, on the way to his first win since April 24.
“Ricky gave us a great opportunity,” Gardenhire said. “A hard six innings.’’