MINNEAPOLIS — As bad as Yankees fans at times think their club has been this season, they’ve been given the opportunity to see what a truly hideous baseball team looks like the last couple of days.
A night after fighting tooth and nail before finally subduing the Twins, the Yankees whacked the American League’s worst team, 8-2, Friday night at Target Field.
The Yankees (33-34), surely feeling fortunate to have two more games this weekend against the Twins (20-47), had 14 hits, three by Carlos Beltran, including his team-best 17th homer. Beltran’s blast was part of a four-run first inning.
Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), coming off one of his worst starts of the season, had his way with a Twins team that stranded nine runners over five innings the night before.
“Helped me out mentally,” Tanaka said through his translator of the early lead. “But as a pitcher, you want to put up as many zeroes as possible and that’s what I was trying to do all night.”
He faced few real jams Friday, allowing one run and seven hits over eight innings, lowering his ERA to 2.91 from 3.08. The righthander, who allowed five runs in his previous start against Detroit but made this one on extra rest, struck out five and did not walk a batter in throwing a season-high 110 pitches.
It took the Yankees five pitches to take the lead against lefthander Pat Dean (1-3, 5.54), making his sixth career big-league start, and 13 pitches to make it apparent the 27-year-old was overmatched (he was optioned after the game).
Rob Refsnyder (two hits) drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with a double and Beltran, making his second straight start after missing two games because of swelling in his left knee, launched a full-count slider into the second deck in left to make it 3-0.
“Right now, I don’t think it’s an issue,” said Beltran, also the club’s leader in RBIs with 46. “Yesterday I didn’t know how my knee was going to respond. Today I woke up feeling basically the same way. I still have a little fluid but the pain is not there, which is good.”
Starlin Castro walked with one out in the first and Chase Headley (two hits, two walks) doubled off the wall in right. Didi Gregorius, hitting a team-best .368 versus lefties this season, smashed a grounder to first that went for an infield single, bringing in Castro to make it 4-0.
The Twins got their one run in the second when Trevor Plouffe singled, went to third on Eduardo Escobar’s double, and came in on Max Kepler’s groundout.
The Yankees knocked Dean from the game in the third as Alex Rodriguez and Castro opened with singles and Headley walked to load the bases. Gregorius grounded to second, getting A-Rod in, and Paul Molitor decided to call on righty Neil Ramirez to face Austin Romine. The backup catcher hammered a two-run double to left-center to make it 7-1.
After the second, the Twins didn’t put another runner in scoring position against Tanaka until the eighth.
“He was really efficient,” Girardi said of Tanaka. “He used all of his pitches tonight and did a good job.”
Notes & quotes: C Brian McCann, who got the night off as Romine started in his place, has been slumping. The 32-year-old has a .211/.320/.383 slash line with eight homers and 27 RBIs, but only two homers and nine RBIs in his previous 19 games (in which he’s slashed .098/.233/.235). “It’s not anything I can really put a finger on,” Girardi said. “He’s just not getting a lot of hits. I don’t see much different in him mechanically, but he’s just kind of going through a tough time.” . . . RHP Michael Pineda enters Saturday’s start 3-7 with a 5.88 ERA but has been better his last three starts, allowing a combined six runs, which has brought his ERA down from 6.92. “I feel like he’s turned the corner,” Girardi said. “But that doesn’t mean that you can relax and let your guard down. You have to stay on top of things.”