Rodriguez, the Yankees’ leader with 29 homers and 20 stolen bases, has been out since last Friday, when he sat out the opener of a three-game series in Seattle due to a viral infection. The All-Star third baseman then dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension for his part in a bench-clearing brawl at Boston on July 24, keeping him out of the final two games in Seattle and the first two of this series.
“If I was going to miss three games anyway, to fight for one day and then miss three games in September, it was a moot point,” said Rodriguez, who had not missed a game the entire season until last weekend.
“The only regret I have is that I wish we had done it on Friday.”
Hernandez has made a storied return to the majors after missing all of last season with an injured shoulder. The Cuban right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven starts, with the Yankees winning each of his outings, including a 5-1 victory at Texas on Aug. 12.
Hernandez allowed one run and four hits over seven solid innings, striking out seven and walking three.
“To have him look this good right now, it’s really given us a big shot in the arm,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Hernandez. “He came at the right time for us.”
Catcher Jorge Posada has also been impressed by Hernandez, who has been New York’s most consistent starter since his return.
“He’s been more than we expected,” Posada said. “He’s been the savior of the rotation. He’s stepped up in a big way, like he never left.”
The Yankees, who have not been swept since dropping three games to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium from July 2-4, had their lead in the AL East shaved to eight games with Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the Twins.
Johan Santana took a shutout into the eighth inning and Shannon Stewart went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs for the Twins, who won Tuesday’s series opener 8-2 to end a 13-game regular season losing streak to the Yankees.
New York also beat Minnesota in four games in last year’s AL division series.
Jacque Jones also homered for Minnesota, which won for the fourth time in six games and sent New York to its third consecutive loss. The Twins lead the AL Central by 4 1/2 games over Cleveland.
The Yankees haven’t lost four straight since April 22-25.