Kubel’s 2 homers lift Twins over Yankees, 8-2

Published 10:20 am Friday, May 28, 2010

The Minnesota Twins were starting to get testy, growing sick and tired of answering questions about why the New York Yankees kept beating them and why they couldn’t hit the ball out of Target Field.

With two powerful swings, Jason Kubel emphatically put an end to both lines of questioning, at least for one night.

Kubel ended Minnesota’s long power drought in a big way, belting two home runs and driving in five runs in the Twins’ 8-2 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night.

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Kubel hit a solo homer in the sixth, a three-run shot in the seventh and had an RBI double for the Twins, who had gone eight games and 349 plate appearances without a home run before the lefty broke the skid.

“It just hasn’t been consistent,” said Kubel, who was hitting just .217 with three homers entering the game. “Hopefully I can keep this feeling.”

Robinson Cano had two hits and two RBIs. Mark Teixeira had two hits for the Yankees.

Nick Blackburn (6-1) gave up two runs and nine hits in seven innings to help Minnesota beat the Yankees for just the second time in 13 games.

Javier Vazquez (3-5) allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings and took the loss.

The Yankees still took two of three from the first-place team in the AL Central. They hope to get injured center fielder Curtis Granderson back for the series opener against Cleveland on Friday and four of their next five series are against bottom dwellers in Cleveland, Baltimore and Houston.

“We won two games so I don’t want to overlook that we beat a very good Minnesota Twins team two out of three,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We didn’t win tonight and you’d love to have won tonight, but we get a chance to go home for a while and see what happens.”

The victory was a welcome sight for Twins fans, who haven’t seen their team beat the Yankees at home since Aug. 13, 2008. Indoors, outdoors, regular season or playoffs, the Yankees have owned Minnesota since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2002. Minnesota is 18-54 against the Yankees under Gardenhire and 725-572 against everyone else.

New York has eliminated Minnesota three times in the postseason since 2002 and won nine straight, including a sweep in the divisional playoffs last year, until Kubel’s grand slam in the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera on May 16.

So is Kubel a Yankee killer?

“Uh, I wouldn’t go that far,” he said with a chuckle.

New York staggered into its first series at Target Field having lost five of its previous six games, a slump that allowed Tampa Bay to take a 5 1/2-game lead in the AL East. But Rivera resumed his excellent form, picking up two saves in about 4 hours on Wednesday to help the Yankees reassert themselves.

“We’re not going to be perfect every time,” Cano said. “We’re going to have some ups and downs. We’re going to put it together soon. We’ve got to get everyone going at the same time and keep it together as a team and just keep fighting.”

The Yankees won the opener, which was suspended by rain, 1-0 and then edged the Twins 3-2 in the night game on Nick Swisher’s solo homer in the ninth inning.

“I’m glad we’re done playing them,” Blackburn said.

The Twins broke out in the finale with four doubles in the first three innings to take a 3-0 lead.

Kubel’s first homer was the third-longest hit at Target Field, a 426-footer in the sixth that landed near the parking garage just beyond the stands in right-center and made it 5-2.

“He made some pitches when he had to, to keep it close,” Girardi said. “Obviously, as I’ve said, if you don’t make pitches to this team, they can put a thumping on you. That’s exactly what they did.”

Kubel’s second homer put it out of reach, and the crowd bellowed “Kuuuuuuuube!” as the slumping slugger took his curtain call and received a standing ovation. The Twins have 12 homers in 23 games at shiny new Target Field.

“It hasn’t been flying here,” Kubel said. “But if you pull the ball, it can get out. So maybe that’s the key.”