Baseball / Sports

Lineup changes benefit Twins in 6-1 victory against Yanks

NEW YORK -- For one night, hitting with runners in scoring position didn't matter. Stringing together hits didn't matter. Little ball, schmittle ball.

A rare power surge from the Minnesota Twins pushed them past the New York Yankees to a 6-1 victory on Friday, getting their five-game road trip off to a proper start. Oswaldo Arcia, Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe all went deep off Yankees lefthander Vidal Nuno and helped Ricky Nolasco win for the first time this month.

It's the first time the Twins have hit three home runs in a game this season, and first time since Sept. 10 of last season, against Oakland. Both Willingham and Arcia have two home runs since returning to the lineup on Monday, showing they can be a significant boost to a lineup that can use some punch.

The Twins' bats hit the road in bad shape. The offense averaged 2.5 runs a game and batted .182 with runners in scoring position while losing three of four at home to Texas, and several players who had gotten off to promising starts this season started to see their numbers regress.

So manager Ron Gardenhire decided to juggle his lineup Friday. Danny Santana, subbing in center while Aaron Hicks nursed a sore back, batted leadoff. Brian Dozier, the leadoff hitter in 49 of the Twins' 51 games before Friday, dropped down to the No. 2 hole with Joe Mauer batting third.

Plouffe, batting .204 over his previous 25 games, dropped down to the sixth spot in the order.

"We wanted to mix it up a little bit," Gardenhire said. "(Santana) can run, he can bunt, he can do all those things."

Santana ended up out of the game in the third inning after he doubled and stole third. While stealing third, his helmet slipped off his head, bounced off the ground and hit him in the face, causing a laceration of his upper left eyelid. Hicks replaced Santana.

The Twins opened the scoring in the second when Arcia homered into the second deck in right field. Nuno was ahead 0-2 after dropping a curveball over. Catcher John Ray Murphy asked for fastball up and out of the strike zone, but Nuno threw it belt high. And Arcia belted it for his second home run since coming off the disabled list Monday.

Jacoby Ellsbury's RBI double in the third tied the score, but the Twins struck for three runs in the fourth.

Josh Willingham led off the inning by hammering a 1-2 fastball from Nuno into the visitors' bullpen in left-center. It was an impressive blast, given that a solid breeze was coming in from that direction. Arcia reached on a bloop single to center, and Plouffe followed with a two-run blast over the center field wall. for a 4-1 lead. The Twins padded their lead in the eighth behind RBI singles from Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez.

Nolasco wasn't sharp. Only 59 of his 107 pitches were for strikes, and he threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 26 batters he faced. But he stayed out of the middle of the plate and stranded two runners on base in both the first and third innings. Brian McCann was up both times in those situations, and he entered the game a career .345 hitter against Nolasco, with eight home runs.

Nolasco (3-5) recorded his first win since April 24. He had three quality starts (pitch at least six innings, give up no more than three earned runs) this month but the Twins offense didn't hold up its end of the deal. It did on Friday.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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