Twins' 6-run rally in 9th inning boosts Hughes to win against Yankees
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NEW YORK -- Phil Hughes pitched eight poised innings in his return to New York and wound up a winner when the Minnesota Twins rallied past the Yankees 7-2 Sunday behind big hits from Josh Willingham and Brian Dozier in a six-run ninth.
Willingham belted a tying homer on the first pitch from closer David Robertson, denying rookie Chase Whitley his first major league victory. Robertson (0-2) then walked two batters and gave up Dozier's two-out double, putting the Twins on top 3-2.
Eduardo Nunez, also let go by the Yankees, lined a two-run double on Matt Daley's first pitch. Oswaldo Arcia added a two-run single off Matt Thornton to make it 7-2, all but sealing Minnesota's second victory in the three-game series.
Hughes (6-1) held his former team to three hits -- all in a row to begin the fourth -- and retired his final 15 batters during his sixth straight win. And this one must have been especially satisfying.
Hughes was drafted 23rd overall by the Yankees in 2004 and arrived in the big leagues three years later at age 20. He never quite lived up to lofty expectations -- though he did make his mark during seven seasons in pinstripes.
The right-hander was a key member of the bullpen in 2009, helping New York to a World Series championship, and he made the All-Star team while winning 18 games the following year.
But he faded to 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA last season, struggling with the homer-friendly dimensions at the current Yankee Stadium. With the second-highest flyball ratio among major league starters last year, he went 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA at home.
Minnesota, which plays at pitcher-friendly Target Field, signed him to a $24 million, three-year contract in December -- and Hughes is off to a terrific start with his new team. He was 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his previous seven starts, and acknowledged Friday there would be "some weird at-bats" when he faced his former teammates.
"We all know how big this is for him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. "Hopefully everybody relaxes enough and we just play the game and not try to do too much."
Hughes came right after the Yankees with 91-94 mph fastballs and cutters. Looking all grown up on the mound with a well-manicured beard, he faced the minimum through three innings and only had trouble in the fourth.
Brett Gardner tripled off the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center and Derek Jeter singled. After a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and a rare walk to Brian McCann, Hughes did not permit another baserunner.
One of those outs, however, was Ichiro Suzuki's bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Jeter scored easily ahead of an off-target throw by center fielder Aaron Hicks to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
That's how it stood until the ninth, when Robertson, was charged with five runs in two-thirds of an inning. It was his second blown save in 14 chances since taking over as closer for Mariano Rivera.
Hughes struck out six and walked two, throwing 72 of 100 pitches for strikes against a lineup missing injured sluggers Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.
Trevor Plouffe had a two-out RBI single for the Twins in the third.
New York has dropped nine of its last 13 home games.
Hughes went 178 straight batters without issuing a walk before McCann drew a free pass on a full count leading off the second.
Dozier turned an artful double play to end the inning. The second baseman grabbed a bouncer toward the middle and went into a neat pop-up slide, touching the bag with his glove before throwing to first just in time to get Suzuki.
--Gardenhire gave SS Danny Santana another day off but said the rookie was "available off the bench, so to speak." Santana needed seven stitches to close a cut on his left eyelid Friday night.
--Kelly Johnson played first base in place of Teixeira, who sat out as expected after leaving Saturday's game because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right wrist.
--Beltran (elbow) is headed to Tampa, Florida, to begin taking at-bats in extended spring training Monday. ... New York RHP David Phelps (1-2, 3.38 ERA) faces Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.57) on Monday night in the makeup of an April 30 rainout.
--Minnesota RHP Kyle Gibson (4-4) starts Monday night in Milwaukee against ex-Twin Matt Garza (2-4).
--There was a moment of silence before the game for Lewis Katz, a minority owner of the Yankees who died Saturday night in a plane crash. He was 72.© The Associated Press