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Yankees get to Hughes in win against Twins

New York Yankees’ Zelous Wheeler, left, celebrates with Brendan Ryan after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning Thursday at Target Field in Minneapolis. USA Today Sports

Carlos Beltran and Zelous Wheeler homered in a span of three batters, erasing a two-run deficit and giving New York the lead for good in a 7-4 win at Target Field, snapping a five-game losing streak.

The Twins scratched out two early runs across against Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, and the Yankees had no answers for Minnesota starter Phil Hughes until the decisive fifth inning.

After getting only one hit against Hughes through four, it took the Yankees six pitches to grab the lead. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Beltran followed with a towering drive over the right-field wall for his ninth homer of the season.

“They jumped on the first pitches there in the fifth,” Hughes said. “The one big mistake of the game was to Beltran. The other at-bats, I stayed hard-in on him but I figured I’d try to get a ground-ball double play right there and throw the two-seamer. It just caught too much of the plate.”

For Beltran, the homer was the 367th of his career, moving him past former Houston Astros Lance Berkman and into fourth place all-time for career home runs by a switch hitter.

Two batters later, Wheeler who was making his major league debut, got his first career hit on a 413-foot blast into the bullpen in left-center making it a 4-2 game.

“I got ahead in the count, I think it was 3-1, so I just looked for a pitch elevated up and I put good wood on it,” Wheeler said. “It felt great. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Hopefully I can take advantage of it. That’s game one; I’m just going to come in and do the best I can.”

Wheeler’s debut Thursday came after eight years playing in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee and Baltimore organizations before finally joining the Yankees over the winter.

“It’s a special night for him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s a kid who has persevered a long time. To get his opportunity and for his first hit to be a homer, and into our bullpen so he can get the ball, that’s pretty special.”

The Twins pushed another run across in the sixth to make the score 4-3 before New York broke through with their second big inning of the night in the seventh. Second baseman Brendan Ryan RBI double, a run-scoring single by left fielder Brett Gardner and shortstop Derek Jeter’s fielder’s choice made a winner out of Tanaka.

“When you continue to add to the lead, it feels good for the pitcher. Less pressure,” Beltran said. “At the same time ... we have to find a way to score more runs, there’s no doubt about that. We played poorly at home and hopefully this road trip, we start doing better.”

The offensive support was than enough for Tanaka, who picked up his major-league leading 12th win despite posting some of the worst numbers of his brief 17-game career. For the first time since coming from Japan, Tanaka did not have a quality start and allowed nine hits and four earned runs – both career highs – while striking out three (a career low) over seven innings.

“He probably wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been,” Girardi said. “You’re going to have starts like that. He did a good job of minimizing damage and giving us a chance to win.”