Ron Gardenhire #5 of the Minnesota Twins argues with Home...

Ron Gardenhire #5 of the Minnesota Twins argues with Home Plate Umpire Greg Gibson #53 after being ejected in the top of the second inning. (April 17, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

In the bottom of the third inning, with the bottom of the Yankees batting order, came the third dimension in Tuesday night's 8-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

That's when fellows such as Chris Stewart, the backup catcher acquired from San Francisco last month solely for his defensive proficiency, provided a depth to what might have been a flat recitation of balls and strikes and hits and errors that leaped out at the 40,194 spectators.

Three consecutive singles (by Andruw Jones, Curtis Granderson and Eduardo Nuñez) and a walk (Brett Gardner) already had produced one run in the inning, leaving the Yankees within one at 3-2, when Stewart -- batting ninth -- cracked a two-run single to left. It was his first hit as a Yankee, after having gone 0-for-3 while he got a cup of coffee with the team in 2008 and failed to reach base in his first four at-bats this season.

He was playing because manager Joe Girardi wanted to give Russell Martin a day off, and the first thing on Stewart's mind Tuesday night was "not hitting. Never hitting," he said. "Hitting is always a bonus."

That he could be part of the significant production from theoretically less productive members of the Yankees lineup -- hitters five-through-nine had nine of the team's 13 hits and drove in six of the eight runs -- was "awesome," Stewart said.

He is 30 years old, in his sixth big-league season. "Not only was it one of my best nights," Stewart said, "but it was in Yankee Stadium, of all places, on a night I'm wearing pinstripes. Definitely one I'm not going to forget."

Mark Teixeira's "flu-like symptoms" had triggered a domino effect in the Yankees' lineup -- Nick Swisher from DH to first base, Derek Jeter from shortstop to DH, Nuñez from the bench to shortstop, not to mention a shuffling of the batting order.

But it all worked out, especially at the end of that odd third inning, during which plate umpire Greg Gibson ejected Minnesota's Denard Span and manager Ron Gardenhire for arguing a strike call; and Gibson called CC Sabathia for a balk; and Swisher made an exquisite, leaning-into-the-dugout backhand putout; and Gardner executed a diving catch to end Minnesota's two-run inning.

The Yankees' four runs in the bottom of the inning put them ahead at 5-3 and (more than a third) of their way home.

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