Phil Hughes sharp in Yanks' win, but Hiroki Kuroda's hip a concern

Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes throws against the Minnesota

Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes throws against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning. (July 2, 2013) (Credit: AP)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Phil Hughes turned in a second straight solid start, Robinson Cano hit another home run as his torrid hitting continued and Alberto Gonzalez proved a surprising bottom-of-the-order spark.

But, as has been the case since spring training with the Yankees, on-the-field activity often is overshadowed by what takes place off it.

Such was the case Tuesday night despite the Yankees' 7-3 victory over the Twins in front of 29,029 at Target Field, a second straight victory after five straight losses.

That was because of the news during the game that 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, far and away the club's most consistent pitcher this season, had been sent back to New York earlier in the day for tests.

Joe Girardi said Kuroda's left hip flexor was "a little sore." He said the MRI came back "clean" but Ivan Nova will start in his place Friday.

Girardi said Kuroda first felt the issue after his start Sunday, a 4-2 loss to the Orioles. The pitcher said he felt better Tuesday and the hope is he'll miss only one start, though Girardi couldn't say for sure.

"He's a little sore," Girardi said. "That's the best news we could have gotten. Like I said, he felt better today."

Though he allowed three homers in Sunday's 4-2 loss, Kuroda is still a more than respectable 7-6 with a 2.95 ERA, the best ERA of any Yankees starter.

That includes Hughes, who was coming off one of his best outings of the season. Even though that was a 2-0 loss to the Rangers, Hughes lasted eight innings, allowing those two runs and five hits.

Backed by a surprising 2-for-4, three-RBI performance by Gonzalez, the No. 9 hitter who had been without a hit since rejoining the team June 21, and a not-so-surprising three-run homer by Cano, which gave him 20, Hughes (4-7, 4.55 ERA) mostly cruised over seven innings.

"I feel a little bit better with my mechanics overall," said Hughes, who allowed one run, six hits and two walks. "I feel like I've got a better direction toward home plate and attacking guys. My fastball is staying more true both sides of the plate.''

The 26-year-old righthander, who is drawing some interest as the trade deadline approaches, struck out three.

"You talk about never having consecutive bad outings, well, if you have a good one, you want to keep that ball rolling," Hughes said. "Hopefully, this is the start of a bunch I can roll off here and I can get going."

Trailing 1-0, Hughes escaped a second-and-third-none-out jam in the fourth. He got called third strikes on Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks, and induced Pedro Florimon to ground out.

"I felt that really swung the momentum in our favor," Hughes said.

The Yankees (44-39), with one hit off Samuel Deduno (4-3) through four innings, scored three times in the fifth.

The biggest hit was Gonzalez's two-run double into the rightfield corner that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Gonzalez, hitless in 13 at-bats since rejoining the team, went to third on Brett Gardner's groundout and scored on Ichiro Suzuki's infield single to make it 3-1.

"I said, 'God thank you,' " Gonzalez said of looking skyward after his double. "I was finally able to help the team.''

Gonzalez's RBI single in the seventh against Anthony Swarzak made it 4-1 and Cano's three-run shot later in the inning blew the game open at 7-1. It was Cano's fourth homer in his last three games.

After the Twins scored two runs in the ninth, Mariano Rivera was brought in to get the final out, which he got for his 27th save in 28 chances.

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