Twins score early but can’t finish

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 4, 2013

Clete Thomas leads Minn. at the plate with 3 hits

MINNEAPOLIS — CC Sabathia won his 200th career game to stretch his winning streak over Minnesota to nearly six years, and Robinson Cano hit a tying two-run double to spark the New York Yankees in a 3-2 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.

Cano fueled the three-run sixth against Twins starter PJ Walters (2-5), who was pitching for his job. Trevor Plouffe homered against Sabathia (9-6), but the burly left-hander finished seven innings with seven hits and three walks while striking out nine.

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Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his 28th save in 29 tries in his farewell season.

Sabathia is 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Twins. Not quite as dominant as he’s been in the past, Sabathia was still plenty overpowering for the Twins, who have lost nine of their last 12 games. He threw a season-high 121 pitches.

The Twins were on their way to beating Sabathia for the first time since July 29, 2007, the year he won the AL Cy Young award. Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk in the third and scored on Joe Mauer’s double, his first extra-base hit in nine games.

Shortstop Luis Cruz, signed before the game as a replacement for Jayson Nix, the latest Yankee to hit the disabled list, was charged with an error for throwing over first baseman Lyle Overbay’s head to give the Twins runners at the corners with no outs.

But Sabathia bore down after that, striking out Justin Morneau, retiring Plouffe on a fly out and striking out Oswaldo Arcia to finish the inning.

With two outs in the fifth, Plouffe’s drive escaped the outstretched glove of center fielder Brett Gardner and bounced high off the top of the wall onto the black batter-eye backing behind it for a 2-0 lead. That was all the Twins could get, though.

Cano has had at least two hits in each of the first six games of this road trip, batting 14 for 24 with 10 RBIs and four home runs. His streak of going deep ended at three straight games, but the four-time All-Star second baseman didn’t stop lifting this lagging, injury-ravaged lineup once again. Aaron Hicks made a fully extended catch of Cano’s line drive to center field in the eighth inning, the only time the Twins got him out on the night.

With Mike Pelfrey slotted to return to the rotation from a disabled list stint on Saturday, the Twins will have to take someone out this weekend. Kevin Correia has been their most consistent starter and is also their most expensive. Samuel Deduno has found a groove recently. Kyle Gibson just won his major league debut. That leaves Scott Diamond and Walters, but Diamond was their best starter last season and had a strong turn against the Yankees in the series opener.

After giving the Twins solid performances in his first four starts, Walters fell out of whack, lasting a total of nine innings over his previous three turns while allowing 16 hits, 16 runs and nine walks.

The right-hander breezed twice through the batting order, but the leadoff walk in the sixth to Gardner was foreboding. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a double, and then came Cano’s crushing line drive down the right-field line off a 1-2 slider that caught too much of the plate.

Caleb Thielbar bailed the Twins out, limiting the damage to Overbay’s go-ahead sacrifice fly after inheriting a no-out, runners-at-the-corners situation. Thielbar completed two innings, and in 16 appearances the rookie from nearby Randolph, Minn., has yet to be charged with a run. The right-hander has surrendered only five hits over 18 2-3 innings.

Walters allowed four hits and three walks while striking out three.

The Twins fell to 36-45 at their halfway mark, one game better than their midpoint record in both 2012 and 2011.

NOTES: Twins LF Josh Willingham had arthroscopic surgery in the morning to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. His production was way down from last year, when he hit 35 HRs with 110 RBIs, and manager Ron Gardenhire said he believes the injury that’s been bothering him for more than two months has affected his swing. “He’ll never admit to that. He’s not an excuse-maker,” Gardenhire said. … Yankees RH Hiroki Kuroda, out of the rotation temporarily because of a left hip flexor problem, will see the team doctor on Friday. Manager Joe Girardi declined to speculate on when Kuroda, who has been the team’s best starter, will take his next turn. … The Yankees will send RH David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA0 to the mound in search of the sweep in the finale on Thursday afternoon. Rookie RH Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00) will make his second start for the Twins after winning his major league debut last weekend with six strong innings.