MINNEAPOLIS -- In a second straight start, CC Sabathia looked like the ace he's paid big money to be.
No time like the present to do so.
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Completely dominating the Twins in a game his team badly needed, the lefthander pitched the Yankees to an 8-2 victory in front of 33,251 at Target Field Wednesday.
"This is what he can do, he can string a bunch of good ones together," Joe Girardi said. "And if there's a time, now's the time."
The Yankees (90-65), who won two of three from the Twins but still were kicking themselves for coughing up Tuesday night's game, start a four-game set in Toronto tonight. With seven games left, they remain 11/2 games ahead of the Orioles, who beat the Blue Jays last night in Baltimore.
"It always feels good to have good outings," said Sabathia, who allowed two runs, six hits and a walk, striking out 10, in eight innings. "We're in a race, it's going to be tough so you want to pitch well every time out."
Sabathia (14-6) got far more backing from his offense Wednesday than he did in his previous start against the A's, when he pitched eight shutout innings in what was a 2-1 victory in 10 innings.
It was a somewhat odd game, one in which Twins righthanded starter Samuel Deduno left with two outs in the second inning with what was announced as "left eye irritation." He was replaced by lefty Brian Duensing.
The Yankees' lineup adjusted easily, erupting with a six-run third that blew open the game, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 lead. Robinson Cano, who went 3-for-3 Tuesday, sparked the rally with a two-run double, the first of his two doubles on the day.
Cano had been hitting just .219 against lefties this season.
"We've struggled with men on base," Cano said of the Yankees, who went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position yesterday. "But like I said, I put every game behind me. You go out there every game, every at-bat, and forget about what happened in the past."
The Twins took the lead in the second, getting a one-out, RBI single from Matt Carson that brought in Ryan Doumit, who singled to lead off the inning.
Duensing (4-11), to say the least, failed to provide a shutdown inning, as the Yankees sent 11 to the plate in the third inning.
"I think you have to," Nick Swisher said of smelling blood in the water when Duensing was summoned on short notice. "That's a tough spot to come in to."
After Chris Stewart led off by grounding out, Chris Dickerson and Ichiro Suzuki, who had two hits to improve to 19-for-39 (.487) in his last 10 games, hit consecutive singles. A walk to Derek Jeter, whose 19-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-4, loaded the bases for Cano.
Cano, to that point 2-for-12 with the bases loaded and less than two outs this season, turned rightfielder Ben Revere around with a liner over his head, the double bringing in Dickerson and Ichiro to make it 2-1. Swisher followed with a single to right to bring in Jeter for a 3-1 lead and Curtis Granderson's fourth triple of the season, a shot over the first-base bag, brought in two more to make it 5-1. Duensing's wild pitch scored Granderson for the sixth run of the inning.
"That's the game," Sabathia said of the third-inning outburst. "Feels good to go out with a lead and try to go out and shut them down. I was able to do that tonight."
Raul Ibanez started the sixth with a double and came in on Dickerson's second homer of the season, making it 8-1.
"I think just in general it feels like those early September woes are out the door," Swisher said. "I feel like we're playing our best ball now and this is the perfect time to be doing it."