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James Paxton leaves Yankees' win over Twins with sore left knee

James Paxton of the Yankees looks at the

James Paxton of the Yankees looks at the ball as he stands on the mound during the second inning against the Twins at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It would have sounded like a particularly cruel joke if it hadn’t become such a common occurrence at Yankee Stadium. Hours after a slew of positive injury updates, the Yankees again were dealt another blow to a pivotal piece Friday night: James Paxton left after three innings with a sore left knee.

He will have an MRI on Saturday, the Yankees announced after their 6-3 win over the Twins. At this rate, they might be getting a bulk discount, with 13 players already on the injured list (that list should shorten Saturday with the return of Miguel Andujar). The Yankees and Paxton hope the MRI will show that it is nothing serious. He said he’s been dealing with it since the beginning of the season but has managed the pain well enough with exercise, ice and lasers.

Until the MRI results, though, the Yankees’ 12th victory in 16 games will stay a bit bittersweet.

“It doesn’t feel like something” serious, Paxton said. “It was just something that was nagging at me enough that I couldn’t execute pitches, so hopefully it’s something like inflammation that we can get out there . . . I was flying open . . . I just couldn’t stay on my back side long enough to keep my direction going toward the plate.”

Paxton has been a shining bright spot for the Yankees, who have been without Luis Severino (lat muscle) and who have had to compensate for the occasional struggles of J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka. On Friday, though, he didn’t show quite the dominance or craftiness that have carried his last three starts. He threw 64 pitches -- allowing two hits, three walks and one run, which was unearned -- before conferring with trainer Steve Donohue as he headed down the tunnel after the third.

The Yankees’ play — coupled with the Twins’ uncharacteristic haplessness — meant the night wasn’t a complete loss. The bullpen proved up to the task, the Yankees scored three unearned runs and Gary Sanchez hit two long homers.

Sanchez has only 18 hits this season, but 10 of them have been homers — in 68 at-bats. He has 20 RBIs in 18 games. His homers, both of which went to leftfield, came in the fifth and seventh, making this his 12th career multi-homer game in 284 games. He is second to Ralph Kiner, who did it in 282.

Jonathan Holder, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined to allow two runs and two hits in six innings, including Nelson Cruz’s long two-run homer off Britton in the eighth. That was the first hit off the relievers. “Really good that they could pick us up the way they did,” Aaron Boone said. “Not the way you draw it up when you’ve got Pax going, but certainly a good win for us.”

The Twins’ gifts started right in the first inning, when Brett Gardner led off with a fly ball that was misjudged, underran and then overran by centerfielder Byron Buxton. As Buxton toppled over, the ball rolled toward the warning track, allowing Gardner to reach third on the three-base error.

Luke Voit walked, meaning he has reached in 42 straight games, tied with Mark Teixeira and Bernie Williams for third-most in franchise history. Gleyber Torres’ single gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. They did miss out on a second run, though, when with two outs, Gio Urshela singled and Voit was sent home from second — a move that immediately looked suspect and ended with Voit out by many, many strides on Marwin Gonzalez’s throw. Voit was seen mouthing “Why did he send me?” — presumably referencing third-base coach Phil Nevin — shortly after he was thrown out.

Voit, who has 27 RBIs, came back with a two-out RBI single in the second to make it 2-0.

Despite the missteps and the injury to Paxton, these Yankees continue to prove resilient.

“The guys who are healthy have a game to play every day, so just pay attention to that and try to get the win,” Holder said.

Paxton, he said, “is an awesome pitcher, one of our best guys. Right now, we don’t know what it is, so in my mind, it’ll be a little blip and he’ll be back out there throwing the way he does . . . We can’t afford to lose him for too long, but at this point, we’re kind of used to it.”

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