By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- CC Sabathia stopped his two-start losing streak with nine strikeouts over seven innings, and the New York Yankees hit three home runs to support him in an 8-4 victory over the depleted Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
The Yankees lead the majors with 163 homers this season, despite only 13 from Alex Rodriguez, who has been out following knee surgery last month. Mark Teixeira hit his 33rd, a two-run shot in the third, and Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones hit back-to-back deep balls in the fifth inning against Brian Duensing (8-12).
Jones sent his into the third deck above left field, an estimated 434 feet.
Sabathia (17-7) gave up four runs -- three earned -- and walked only one. Including postseason games, the Yankees improved to 60-19 against the Twins since 2002 and 20-3 over the last three years.
They stayed a half-game ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East race.
Duensing yielded 10 hits and six runs, finishing five innings.
Sabathia stumbled through his last two starts, struggling to put his fastball and changeup in the right place, but manager Joe Girardi expressed confidence before the game that he'd rediscover his rhythm.
The Twins, with their patched-together lineup and recent struggles against the burly left-hander, were the right team for him to face. Despite giving up 10 hits for the third time in his last four starts, Sabathia raised his record to 8-0 in his last nine outings -- including the postseason -- against Minnesota. His ERA in that span is 1.72.
Reserve infielder Luke Hughes, recalled from Triple-A Rochester, missed his scheduled flight to Minnesota and didn't arrive at the ballpark until after the game started, leaving the Twins without any healthy bench players at first pitch.
That meant catcher Joe Mauer would make his debut in right field debut.
That left the Twins with an outfield of Rene Tosoni, Ben Revere and Mauer, whose last game in the outfield, he mused before the game, was as a teenager. The Yankees' Curtis Granderson has out-homered that trio himself this season 34-4.
Hughes struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
The Yankees, still stinging from an umpire mistake in Kansas City the night before that gave the home team a home run that should've been a double during a 5-4 victory by the Royals, almost had another long ball call go against them in the first inning.
With Mauer on first base and two outs, Justin Morneau sent one sailing over the seats in right field that was initially ruled a home run. Girardi argued, and a replay review turned it into a foul ball. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to disagree, and he was quickly ejected.
Morneau then struck out to end the inning, and boos echoed out from the sellout crowd.
The Twins scored twice in the second on a single by Tsuyoshi Nishioka and a fielder's choice hit by Drew Butera, but Sabathia breezed through the middle innings -- recording 10 outs in a row during one stretch -- until surrendering three straight singles to start the seventh.
The last of those, by Revere, drove in Nishioka to cut the lead to 6-3. Then Trevor Plouffe reached on a fielding error by third baseman Eduardo Nunez. Mauer added another run with a sacrifice fly, but Justin Morneau flied out and Jim Thome grounded out to end the inning.
Second baseman Robinson Cano, using the usual right shift against the pull-hitting Thome, stopped the ball in shallow right field with a graceful drive before getting up to make the throw for the out.
Thome was honored before the game for his 600th career home run, hit earlier this week, with a video tribute and a pregame hug from A-Rod, a fellow member of the club.
NOTES: The Yankees still haven't set their starting pitchers for the weekend. RHP Freddy Garcia, bothered by a cut on his index finger from what the team called a kitchen accident, must prove he can throw a bullpen session without a problem before he'll be sent to the mound to face the Twins. Garcia last pitched Aug. 7. If he's not able to start, he could go on the DL. A.J. Burnett would then go Saturday and Ian Nova Sunday. ... This was the fifth ejection this season for Gardenhire and the 59th of his 10-year career. ... Rodriguez, who's coming back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, brushed off a question before the game about his body wearing down at age 36. "You could be 22 or 32. If the cartilage goes, the cartilage goes," he said.