MINNEAPOLIS — It took four innings, but the Yankees finally treated Bartolo Colon the way most teams had this year.
The 44-year-old righthander threw three shutout innings in his first start for Minnesota Tuesday night. But the Yankees, who had been mostly flummoxed by Colon’s mid- to high-80s fastball, finally caught up to him. It all came together in a five-run fifth inning that knocked Colon from the game and sent the Yankees to a 6-3 victory at Target Field.
“A lot of our guys had never seen him,” Joe Girardi said, “and I think . . . you know, the movement that he has is still really good, so it took our guys a little time to figure him out.”
Colon allowed four runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter. He pitched well for the Mets the previous three seasons but was 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA when the Braves dumped him July 6. The Twins signed him to a minor-league deal the next day.
The Yankees (48-44) got a subpar start from Luis Cessa but more terrific work from a suddenly resurgent bullpen, though Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman again were shaky. They evened their record at 3-3 on this 11-game trip.
Betances loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth but pitched out of it. Chapman, after walking leadoff man Joe Mauer and throwing a wild pitch, worked a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.
The Yankees trailed 3-1 going into the fifth but scored five times to take a 6-3 lead. After Ronald Torreyes singled, Brett Gardner doubled and Gary Sanchez brought them both in with a double to tie it at 3. That was all for Colon, replaced by righthander Ryan Pressly. Aaron Judge, 1-for-21 to start the second half, greeted Pressly with his second hit of the night, an RBI single to center to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
Pressly struck out Matt Holliday, but Didi Gregorius stepped into a first-pitch fastball and sent it out to right for his 12th homer to make it 6-3.
Before the game, Girardi spoke about facing Colon and his unique repertoire. “You don’t become too anxious, that’s the big thing to me,” Girardi said. “Sometimes when guys don’t throw as hard, guys’ eyes will light up. You’ve got to make sure that you get a good pitch to hit, you get it up and you deal with the late movement.”
It was a struggle early. Colon’s first pitch in a big-league game since June 28 was a ball to Gardner and his second, an 87-mph fastball, was lifted to left for a routine out. Sanchez got ahead 2-and-0, then sent another fastball into the ground toward third for a groundout. Judge went down looking at a 1-and-2 fastball that tailed back over the plate.
Cessa, 0-3 with a 4.18 ERA coming in, struggled from the start, walking in a run in a 32-pitch first inning in which he threw only 12 strikes. Cessa allowed three runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Miguel Sano’s 22nd homer put the Twins ahead 2-0 in the third. After the Yankees made it 2-1 in the top of the fourth on Chase Headley’s two-out single, Brian Dozier’s RBI triple in the bottom half made it 3-1.