Twins rally to hand Yankees a costly defeat

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The nights are definitely getting cooler, but the race for the AL East title isn't cooling off at all.

The New York Yankees remained 1 1/2 games up on Baltimore on Tuesday, failing to take advantage of an Orioles loss by falling 5-4 to the Minnesota Twins.

"You know what's in front of you, and you know you have an opportunity to pick up another game, but you've got to move on," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Twins, who are seemingly enjoying the spoiler role, rallied from a 3-1 hole with a big seventh inning.

Minnesota loading the bases against New York starter Phil Hughes (16-13) with one out. Hughes gave way to Boone Logan, whose first pitch went to the backstop, allowing Ryan Doumit to score from third. When Denard Span laced a double to center, scoring Chris Parmelee and Jamey Carroll, the Twins had the lead for good. Joe Mauer added an RBI single as Minnesota sent nine men to the plate in the four-run inning.

"It's always nice to beat those guys, but you know, it's a playoff-like atmosphere," said Mauer, who went 3-for-4 and is hitting .418 in September. "Got another team that's in the hunt, and it's good to get a win like that tonight. Just being in that situation, you want to finish out the year on a good note, and if we have games like this, that's what we're going to do."

Esmerling Vasquez started for the Twins and pitched six innings -- the longest outing of the rookie's career. He allowed seven hits and two runs. Casey Fien (2-1) got the win, pitching the seventh inning and allowing Russell Martin's 19th homer of the season.

"We're trying to have some fun. It doesn't matter who," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You kind of get caught up in these races. That's a great baseball team, and we know where they're at. Hopefully you can just jump in there and get in the mix. I think our guys are kind of rising to the occasion here."

Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for Minnesota, allowing a pinch-hit homer by Andruw Jones with two outs and two strikes. Perkins then struck out Jayson Nix for his 15th save.

"We've put ourselves in a position where we're not impacting our season, so we can go out there and win games against teams that are fighting for the playoffs," Perkins said. "If that's all we get out of it, that's what we get, and that's our goal right now."

New York threatened right out of the gate, as Derek Jeter led off the first inning with a single and went to third with two outs on a Robinson Cano single. But Vasquez coaxed a pop fly to third out of Nick Swisher, stranding Jeter.

The Yankees used their most reliable weapon, the long ball, to get on the scoreboard in the fourth. Cano led off with a single, and Swisher planted a 3-2 pitch in the flower pots lining the outfield wall in right field for a 2-0 New York lead. It was the third homer in as many games for Swisher, and his second two-run shot of the series.

Minnesota got one run back in the bottom of the fourth. Mauer led off with a single, his second hit of the game, and with two outs, he scored from first when Parmelee doubled down the left field line.

Left fielder Ichiro Suzuki got to the ball and looked as if he might have a play at the plate, but he bobbled it just enough to allow Mauer time to get across the plate.

Girardi lifted Hughes after his 99th pitch, a strikeout of Pedro Florimon.

"I thought he lost a little command on his fastball, but until then he was really good," Girardi said.

Hughes said,"It's tough. I feel like I was throwing the ball well. It's a tough one to lose. We needed to win this game."

NOTES: Twins left fielder Josh Willingham didn't play, and he is not expected to return until Friday at the earliest. Willingham strained his left shoulder in Monday's loss to the Yankees while leaping to try to rob Eric Chavez of a home run. ... Jeter extended his season-best hitting streak to 19 games. ... The Yankees, who lead the majors in homers, have hit at least one home run in each of their past 11 meetings with the Twins. ... The Twins have 90 losses, the 11th time in the 52 years they have played in Minnesota that they have reached that level. Their worst loss total was 102 in 1982, which was also their first season in the Metrodome.
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