MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Phil Hughes was rolling right along against his former team.
Then came Carlos Beltran’s big swing.
Beltran gave the foundering New York Yankees a jolt with a three-run homer Thursday night, lifting Masahiro Tanaka to his major league-leading 12th win in a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Zelous Wheeler homered in his big league debut after eight years in the minors. David Robertson notched his 19th save with a hitless ninth inning and the Yankees started an 11-game road trip with a sigh-of-relief performance that put their record back at the .500 mark and stopped a season-long five-game winning streak.
“At this level, you make mistakes and guys are going to hit it. It just happened that a couple mistakes I didn’t get away with,” Hughes said.
Hughes (8-5) allowed consecutive singles to start the fifth inning, before Beltran took him deep for the first time in five starts.
“It just caught too much of the plate,” Hughes said.
Wheeler homered two batters later.
“It happened quick. Four quick runs,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We had some good at-bats against Tanaka, put a couple of runs on him. Phil was cruising, and all of a sudden, four points really quick.”
Tanaka (12-3) allowed a season-high four runs.
Wheeler had a single to help spark the three-run rally in the seventh, too, scoring on Brett Gardner’s single after a one-out RBI double by Brendan Ryan chased Hughes. Derek Jeter drove in a run with a groundout.
The Yankees haven’t been nearly as potent at the plate as they are paid to be, ranking 12th in runs and 10th in homers in the American League. They totaled one run over Tanaka’s last two starts, both losses for the star Japanese rookie, but this was the breakout they needed.
Tanaka, who beat the Twins 3-1 on May 31 at Yankee Stadium, finished seven innings with nine hits and no walks while striking out a season-low three.
“He’s tough,” Gardenhire said. “He knows what he’s doing out there.”
With Eduardo Escobar on first after an RBI single in the seventh, Tanaka dodged serious trouble. Sam Fuld’s screaming line drive went straight to Mark Teixeira, who easily stepped on first base for the double play to preserve the three-run lead.
Chris Parmelee drove in a run with a double in the first and Kurt Suzuki and Kendrys Morales had RBI groundouts, but the sputtering Twins missed their opportunities to put bigger numbers on the board like the Yankees did against Hughes.
The Twins have lost eight of 10 and fell a season-most eight games under .500.
Hughes was excited to join the Twins after a rough year with the Yankees, hopeful pitcher-friendly Target Field would turn some of those home runs in the Bronx into harmless fly outs in Minneapolis. Hughes has been a huge lift for one of baseball’s worst rotations this decade, but he’s actually been far better away from Minnesota.
In eight starts on the road, Hughes is 5-2 with a 2.59 ERA and three home runs allowed. In nine appearances at home, he’s 3-3 with a 5.37 ERA and six homers. Hughes beat the Yankees at his old home on June with eight strong innings and only three hits given up, but he was charged with seven runs on this night.
Hughes gave up eight hits and one walk while striking out six. The last time he allowed seven runs was May 15, 2013, for the Yankees against Seattle.
NOTES: Beltran passed Lance Berkman for fourth place on the career list for home runs by switch hitters. With 367, he’s behind Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504) and Chipper Jones (468). … Parmelee stretched his hitting streak to 13 games, though he was tagged out on a 9-4-2-5-7 play when he tried to stretch his double but reconsidered and tried to retreat. He’s hitting .440 (22 for 50) during the run. … The Yankees will send Chase Whitley (3-2, 4.70 ERA) to the mound Friday for the 10th start of his rookie season, and Kyle Gibson (7-6, 3.77 ERA) will pitch for the Twins. The Yankees are 5-1 in Whitley’s six turns on the road. Gibson’s 1.54 ERA at home is the best among qualifying AL pitchers.
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