MINNEAPOLIS - The Yankees arrived here Monday pleased to discover a team playing worse than they were.
Staggering after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles in Baltimore, the Yankees didn't get any healthier but certainly did get better. They completed a four-game sweep of the reeling Twins with a 9-5 win Thursday in front of a sellout crowd of 38,260 at Target Field.
"Pretty important," Joe Girardi said. "Baltimore was frustrating because we had a chance to win a couple of games there and we weren't able to do it. And we hadn't won a series in a while, so I think it was pretty important."
Girardi, whose team improved to 14-3 against the AL Central and has won 25 of its last 32 against the Twins, got production from unexpected places in the series' first three games and did so again in the fourth -- even with a lineup that had Luis Cruz (.136), Alberto Gonzalez (.212) and Austin Romine (.136) occupying spots 7-9 in the order.
The Yankees (46-39), who return to the varsity portion of their schedule Friday night at the Stadium against the Orioles, had 13 hits. Oddly, none of them was by Robinson Cano, who was 14-for- 24 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the first six games of this trip, although he did have a long sacrifice fly to left in a three-run first.
But the Yankees got three hits apiece from Travis Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki, who fell a home run shy of what would have been his first career cycle.
"Look at my arms. I don't think I had a chance," he said with a smile, referring to homering in his final at-bat (he struck out). "Maybe inside-the-park."
Vernon Wells had two hits and three RBIs, including a two-run single in the first, and Cruz, signed Wednesday and starting a second straight game at short, added a double and RBI single.
The Yankees scored 29 runs in the four games after scoring three or fewer runs in 20 of their previous 33 games.
"I think hitting, there's a lot of momentum involved when it comes to a lineup," said Wells, riding an 8-for-23 streak. "It's different guys throughout the lineup. Obviously, Robbie had a great series for us, but today we allowed him to take a day off and not have to carry us."
David Phelps (6-5, 5.01), shaking off Saturday night's start in Baltimore in which he allowed nine runs in 2 1/3 innings, mostly coasted. The only run against him in the first six innings came in the fourth, when Justin Morneau hit the first of his two homers. That pulled the Twins (36-46), who have lost 10 of 13, to 5-1. But the Yankees immediately responded with four runs in the sixth on Gonzalez's RBI single, Ichiro's two-run triple up the alley in right-center and Zoilo Almonte's RBI groundout for a 9-1 lead.
Phelps ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing three singles and leaving after Pedro Florimon's RBI single made it 9-2. Joba Chamberlain gave up an RBI single to Brian Dozier and Boone Logan allowed a sacrifice fly by Joe Mauer that made it 9-4. All of the runs were charged to Phelps, who allowed eight hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings. "I was just getting ahead of guys and my curveball was better today," he said. "I still have some work to do, but I was putting guys away when I got ahead."
Morneau's leadoff homer off Logan in the eighth made it 9-5, and a single and a walk brought the tying run to the on-deck circle with none out. But Shawn Kelley picked up two strikeouts and a groundout to preserve the four-run lead.
Other than Phelps running "out of gas'' in the seventh, according to Girardi, and some shaky work by Chamberlain and Logan, it was a fourth straight good performance.
"It's huge," Phelps said of the series. "We're going home for a long stretch and we're taking some momentum with us. It would have been real easy for us to take what happened to us in Baltimore and carry it over here. But we have a good group of guys and we put it behind us."