Yanks back to winning ways outside division

After going 6-9 in a 15-game stretch against American League East opponents, the Yankees were probably glad to play someone in another division, and who better than the last-place Twins in the AL Central who are currently without Joe Mauer on the disabled list. Despite some bad news surrounding the club, the Yankees ended a season-high five-game winning streak with a 7-4 victory Thursday night and celebrated the Fourth of July by taking a 6-1 lead in the first two innings Friday and hanging on to win, 6-5.

The disturbing news is that the Yankees are not likely to get CC Sabathia back this season. The lefthander was shut down after his injury-rehabilitation start earlier this week for Double A Trenton and has an appointment with noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., July 14 to determine whether he will need surgery on his right knee. If so, Sabathia will be out for the remainder of the season.

That is a cruel blow, considering that one of the pitchers who had shored up the rotation in CC’s absence, Chase Whitley, had another rough outing Friday. The righthander, who had pitched well in his first seven starts, failed to get past the fourth inning for the third straight start. He lasted only three innings and allowed four runs and eight hits, including two home runs.

Whitley was treated to a sizeable early lead as the Yankees scored three runs apiece in the first two innings with a six-hit (five for extra bases) barrage against Kyle Gibson. The Twins closed to 6-4 by the third before David Huff put a clamp on things. The lefthander retired all nine batters he faced over three innings and earned the winning decision. Huff may also have put himself in position to get a shot at starting.

It sure won’t be Triple A righthander Alfredo Aceves, who was the other piece of bad news for the Yankees. He was suspended by Major League Baseball for violation of the drug policy.

Derek Jeter was given July 4 off and batting in his customary 2-hole was Brian Roberts, who had a stellar game. Roberts collected three doubles and a triple for the first four-extra-base-hit game of his career. Francisco Cervelli, starting in place of ailing Brian McCann (sore left foot), had three hits, including two doubles. Mark Teixeira also doubled, and Brett Gardner tripled to open the game.

The Twins made it a one-run game in the eighth and had the potential tying run at second base with two outs in the ninth before David Robertson struck out Chris Parmelee looking to notch his 20th save.

Robertson also saved Thursday night’s victory for Masahiro Tanaka, who improved his record to 12-3, over former teammate Phil Hughes. An old problem for Hughes, the long ball, came into play. He lost a 2-0 lead in the fifth by serving up a three-run home run to Carlos Beltran. Zelous Weaver, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Thursday to replace the farmed out Yangervis Solarte, also homered that inning. He added a single and scored a second run in the Yankees’ three-run seventh to round out an impressive major-league debut.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wheeler became only the sixth Yankees player over the past 40 years to get a home run as his first major-league hit, joining Andy Phillips (2004), Marcus Thames (2002), Alfonso Soriano (1999), Dan Pasqua (1985) and Joe Lefebvre (1980). Elias also pointed out that Beltran has now homered in 38 different ballparks in his big-league career, the second-most among current players only the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (39). The major-league record is 45 by Sammy Sosa.

The Yankees have won seven straight games at Target Field, dating to Sept. 26, 2012. They are 13-3 all-time in that yard. . .It was Roberts’ first four-hit game since Aug. 14, 2009 for the Orioles against the Angels and the second time this season he has fallen a home run short of a cycle. The other time was April 17 at Tampa Bay (single, double, triple). . .Since entering the majors in 2003, Teixeira has the highest batting average among all players against the Twins (.371 in 272 at-bats). He is a .364 hitter in nine career games and 33 at-bats at Target Field. . .Cervelli had three hits in a game for the first time since Aug. 6, 2011 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The Yankees played the Twins on the Fourth of July for the second straight year and the eighth time since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. The Yankees are 5-3 in those games. They swept a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in 1964 by scores of 7-5 and 2-1 and were swept in a doubleheader at old Metropolitan Stadium in 1967 by scores of 8-3 and 7-6. The Yankees also won, 3-2, in 1985 at Yankee Stadium and 9-5 at Target Field last year. They lost, 6-2, at the Stadium in 2007. . .The Yankees played on the road on the Fourth of July for the fourth straight year, the first time they have done that in franchise history. . .They are 31-27 on the Fourth of July in the Expansion Era (since 1961).

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