Yankees-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees are on a roll, and their seemingly favorable schedule could eventually result in another AL East title.

Phil Hughes is looking to continue his own strong stretch on the mound, and the offense may be of some help again.

Hughes goes for a fourth straight winning start as the Yankees' bats look to continue their dominance of the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

New York (89-64) has won eight of nine to move 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Baltimore in the East race with nine games left, one more than the Orioles.

The Yankees appear to have the inside track to win the division since their remaining schedule is against three teams assured of losing seasons - Minnesota (64-90), Toronto and Boston.

Including a pair of postseason sweeps, they've won 26 of 32 games against the Twins while hitting .290 with 52 homers.

New York hit four homers and finished with five extra-base hits in Monday's 6-3 win in the series opener.

"Right now I feel like everything is kind of rolling for us. It's real calm in here. It's relaxed. Guys are having a ton of fun," said Nick Swisher, who is 10 for 26 with three homers and nine RBIs in seven games after hitting a two-run shot Monday.

Hughes (16-12, 4.05 ERA) has certainly benefited from the Yankees' impressive production, which includes a major league-leading 229 homers.

The right-hander has been backed by 5.6 runs per start this season, one reason why he owns the highest ERA of any major leaguer with at least 15 wins.

The offense has provided him with 9.3 runs of support during his current win streak while he's compiled a 2.95 ERA. He hasn't managed a longer streak since a career-high five-game run from May 28-June 19, 2010.

The bats bailed Hughes out again Thursday, when he gave up four runs with three walks in five innings of a 10-7 win over Toronto.

"Changeup command came and went. Fastball was kind of all over the place," Hughes said. "It was a nice night to get a lot of runs because I definitely needed it."

The same can be said for Hughes' last meeting with the Twins on April 19, when he gave up six runs - two earned - in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-6 victory.

Overall, he's 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA in five games - three starts - against Minnesota.

Derek Jeter is hitting .370 during his season-high 18-game hitting streak, and he has a .365 average in his last 53 overall meetings with the Twins. The superstar shortstop has hit safely in 48 of those matchups.

Raul Ibanez is 7 for 16 in four meetings this year after getting two hits, including a solo homer Monday. He's homered three times in three games, going 7 for 12 and driving in five runs.

Minnesota, which has lost four in a row at home, is giving Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75) a fifth chance at his first victory of the season. He's failed to complete six innings in each of his past four trips to the mound.

The right-hander was chased with two outs in the sixth after surrendering three runs and six hits with three walks in Thursday's 4-3, 10-inning loss at Cleveland.

Vasquez's only meeting with the Yankees was catastrophic relief appearance in a loss with Arizona on June 22, 2010. He was roughed up for five runs while failing to manage an out in a six-run eighth.

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