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Yankees Take Care Of Twins To Extend AL East Lead

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 24: Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning of the game on September 24, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 24: Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning of the game on September 24, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Andy Pettitte turned in another ageless
performance by pitching six scoreless innings and the New York
Yankees hit four home runs Monday night to beat the Minnesota Twins
6-3 and extend their AL East lead.

The Yankees took a 11/2-game edge over Baltimore, which split a
doubleheader with Toronto. This is the first time since Sept. 2
their margin has been more than one game.

After playing three tense, one-run games against Oakland over
the weekend, including their startling comeback for a 14-inning win
on Saturday, the Yankees enjoyed an easy one for a change. This was
New York’s 10th victory in 12 games.

Pettitte (5-3) hasn’t given up a run in 11 innings since
rejoining the rotation last week. The 40-year-old threw five
scoreless innings against Toronto to mark his comeback from a
broken lower left leg that kept him out for almost three months.

His successful unretirement, after supposedly ending his
remarkable career in 2010, has been a big help for the banged-up
Yankees even though this was only his 11th start of the season.

Nick Swisher’s two-out, two-run homer in the first inning off
Liam Hendriks (1-8) sailed into the seats above right-center field
to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson’s solo shot in
the fourth went even higher and farther, landing in the second
deck. Granderson became the fourth player in the majors to hit 40
homers this season.

In the bottom of that inning, Granderson made a
postseason-worthy throw from center field after fielding a two-out
single as Ryan Doumit raced from second base to home. The ball
arrived just in time, and catcher Russell Martin made a quick sweep
tag that grazed Doumit’s shoulder a spilt-second before his hand
touched the plate.

Then in the seventh, Raul Ibanez _ who is 7 for 12 with three
homers in his last three games _ went deep with a drive that
reached the standing room space near the gate beyond right field.
Eric Chavez added one more home run against Hendriks, an
opposite-field liner with one out that barely reached the flower
bed in left.

The right-hander from Australia, who recorded his first major
league win last week at Cleveland after 17 starts without one, was
removed after that. He gave up eight hits, six runs and one walk,
striking out four.

Those career statistics for Hendriks are a stark contrast to
Pettitte, who stretched his unbeaten streak against the Twins to 12
straight starts. That dates to May 2001 and includes division
series victories in 2009 and 2010.

The Yankees have had him on a pitch count in his return to help
him regain strength in his legs, but he threw 88 times without any
trouble. Pettitte gave up seven hits and one walk. He struck out
three.

The Yankees, who’ve been alone in or tied for first place since
June 11, started a favorable final stretch of the season, with
Minnesota, Toronto and Boston left on the schedule, owners of three
of the four worst records in the league. The Orioles also finish
with the Blue Jays and Red Sox but must wrap up with a three-game
series at Tampa Bay. The Rays still have an outside chance in the
wild card chase.

Derek Jeter extended his season-high hitting to streak to 18
straight games with a ninth-inning single for the Yankees against
Matt Capps, the former closer who pitched for the first time since
July 16 due to a shoulder problem.

Pedro Florimon hit his first career home run for the Twins in
the eighth against Cory Wade.

NOTES: Yankees RH reliever David Aardsma, whose recovery from
Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery last July is
complete, joined the team at Target Field and took injured RH
Michael Pineda’s uniform No. 35. Aardsma could be activated from
the DL this series, but manager Joe Girardi said he’d have to
“pick some spots” since the 30-year-old hasn’t pitched in the
majors in two years. … The Twins honored Jack Jablonski, the
local high school hockey player paralyzed last December during a
game, with a $10,000 gift toward his recovery fund. Jablonski, who
made an underhand toss to Twins star Justin Morneau from a few feet
away in his wheelchair, has recently been standing with help for
more than 20 minutes at a time. … Girardi said 1B Mark Teixeira,
out with a strained left calf for all but one game since Aug. 27,
ran the bases and took ground balls and batting practice at the
team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., and fared well. Girardi
stopped short of confirming Teixeira would return this week at
Toronto, however. “The concern is that you rush him and then he
has that one play and then you know that he’s probably done for the
season. So you’ve got to be sure,” the manager said. … Twins LF
Josh Willingham left the game with a strained left shoulder.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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