MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Ryan Jeffers unleashed a long swing on a cutter from New York’s Nestor Cortes low in the strike zone, then stood at the plate for a second to admire its flight into the third deck.
Two batters later, Byron Buxton sent a down-the-middle slider sailing over the wall and celebrated it by fiercely pounding his chest as he sprinted around first base.
The Minnesota Twins can’t help but enjoy beating the Yankees, especially when it comes against one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Jeffers and Buxton each hit home runs in the fifth inning to force an early exit for Cortes, and the Twins cruised to an 8-1 victory Wednesday that stopped the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak.
The Twins scored one more run than the Yankees allowed combined over the last seven games, handing their longtime nemesis their most lopsided of 16 losses this season.
”We needed a lot of things to go right to score runs like that against Nestor Cortes. He’s a good pitcher. You could see it early in the game, some really odd-looking swings,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. ”He has different stuff, but we made great adjustments tonight.”
Cortes (5-2) allowed season highs in hits (seven) and runs (four) in 4 2/3 innings, his shortest appearance of the year that knocked him out of the major league ERA lead with a still-stellar 1.96 mark. This was the first time in 20 starts since Aug. 10, 2021, that he failed to keep the opposition to three runs or fewer. That left him one short of the longest such streak in team history.
”I was commanding all my pitches, throwing them to the right areas. There was a few that got away from me in the fourth and fifth inning I wish I could get back,” Cortes said, ”but they’re a good hitting team and they made me battle all night.”
After the Twins went nine up and nine down, they had seven hits in 10 at-bats until Buxton’s 13th homer of the season brought Yankees manager Aaron Boone out of the dugout to pull Cortes.
”He’s having a really good year,” said Twins third baseman Gio Urshela. ”Just trying to hit the ball in the zone.”
Chris Archer (1-2) picked up his first victory for the Twins in his team-leading 11th start, completing five innings with only two hits allowed. Archer allowed four walks, but DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly in the fifth was the only damage done by a Yankees lineup that totaled 14 hits the night before.
”They’re tough,” Baldelli said, ”but so is he.”
Carlos Correa returned from COVID-19 to give the Twins a big lift, scoring twice, and Buxton reached base three times. Rookie Jose Miranda had a career-high three hits and matched his previous best with three RBIs, contributing one of the five singles in the fourth inning the Twins used to get Cortes off track. Miranda is 8 for 16 with seven RBIs in his last four starts.
”We’re asking a lot out of everyone, and for the most part, we’ve been stepping up,” Archer said.
Giancarlo Stanton, who recently returned to the Yankees from a nine-game absence due to inflammation in his ankle, played right field for the first time in 17 days. Stanton had a tough time with two tricky-but-catchable fly balls by Urshela going over his head and hitting the wall.
The first one went for an RBI single in the fourth. The second one was a leadoff double in the sixth that preceded a double by Miranda, when a blooper just inside the line eluded him after first baseman Anthony Rizzo peeled off to yield to Stanton.
Boone, whose versatile outfielders have allowed him extra lineup flexibility, expressed his confidence before the game in Stanton’s ability with the glove. Afterward, Stanton was angry at himself.
”I haven’t had a day like that in a long time, if ever,” he said.
The return of Correa put another regular back on the active roster for the Twins, but leading hitter Luis Arraez was on the bench with tightness in his throwing shoulder that forced him out in the seventh inning of the game Tuesday.
Arraez was on track to play Thursday, Baldelli said. The Twins have 13 players on the injured list. Starting pitcher Joe Ryan remains on the COVID-19 list.
Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (5-1, 2.78 ERA) pitches Thursday night. He gave up only two hits over seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in his last start to beat Detroit.
Twins: RHP Dylan Bundy (3-3, 5.57 ERA) takes the mound in the final game as the Twins try to win their first series against the Yankees since Sept. 10-12, 2018, at Target Field.
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