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Twins turn tables on CC to take series in NY

Gibson benefits from bats' strong day against Yankees' lefty

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has long dominated the Twins, dating back to his earlier days with the division-rival Indians. So manager Ron Gardenhire's approach to his club facing Sabathia on Sunday was simple: fill his lineup card with players who have the most experience against the Yankees ace and "take our shot."

For the first time in nearly six years, it worked.

The Twins jumped all over Sabathia, knocking him out of the game after just four innings en route to a 10-4 victory heading into the All-Star break. The win marked Minnesota's first against Sabathia since July 29, 2007, when he was still a member of the Tribe.

Making the victory all the more rare is the fact that it clinched the Twins' first series victory against the Yankees in New York since May 8-10, 2001.

"Winning a series here is not ever easy, and we hadn't done it in a long time, but our guys were excited," Gardenhire said. "The ball fell our way today. We got some bloops, we hit some balls hard and things went our way -- and that hasn't happened in a long time."

Especially against Sabathia.

Between the Twins' '07 victory and Sunday's win, Sabathia had rattled off an 11-0 record to go along with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts against the Twins (including the postseason), including 7-0 with a 2.41 ERA in eight outings with the Yankees. Though only three of Sabathia's season-high eight runs allowed on Sunday were earned, the Twins' offense had him on the ropes in all but one of his four innings.

After going down in order in the first, the Twins went to work on ending Sabathia's dominant streak in the second. Right fielder Ryan Doumit and designated hitter Trevor Plouffe started the frame with back-to-back singles and later came around to score on consecutive run-scoring singles from Jamey Carroll and Pedro Florimon, respectively.

Minnesota piled on one inning later after a two-out error -- one of two Yankees miscues on the day -- extended the inning for center fielder Aaron Hicks. New York shortstop Eduardo Nunez made an errant throw on a Plouffe ground ball to put two on with two outs before Hicks stepped in and connected on a three-run homer to push the lead to 5-0.

"[Sabathia's] a guy that doesn't make too many mistakes, so when he does, it's vital for us to capitalize," Doumit said. "He's a guy that's had our number, obviously, but this was good for us. To put up an eight-spot on a guy like Sabathia is good for the morale on our team."

Staked to the early lead, Twins rookie Kyle Gibson struggled at times, but did enough to earn his second big league victory in four starts.

Leading, 5-0, Gibson gave back one of the runs in the bottom of the third inning, conceding a run-scoring single to another longtime Twins nemesis, Robinson Cano. The base hit extended Cano's RBI streak against the Twins to eight games, tied for the sixth-longest streak by any player against the Twins since the club moved to Minnesota in 1961.

Gibson, as was the case for much of the day, was able to limit the damage courtesy of one of a number of superb defensive plays behind him. With runners on the corners and one out, left fielder Clete Thomas caught a Vernon Wells fly ball then cut down Zoilo Almonte at the plate to end the third. Two innings earlier, Doumit had caught a Cano line drive in right field and also doubled off Almonte, who had wandered too far from first base.

In the inning between those two, Gibson loaded the bases on one hit and two walks, but promptly worked his way out of the jam by forcing catcher Chris Stewart to ground out.

"I worked my way into jams just as quickly," Gibson said of limiting the threats. "I've got to do a better job of not walking guys and making better pitches in some of those situations. But I was able to get ground balls when I needed to, and the defense made a lot of great plays behind me, so they definitely helped me out today a lot."

With Gibson doing just enough to maintain the lead, his offense came through with some added insurance against Sabathia in the fourth, benefiting from a fortunate bounce and the other Yankees error.

With the bags full of Twins, first baseman Justin Morneau blooped a ball just over Sabathia's head that dropped into no-man's land for a run-scoring infield single. One batter later, Doumit hit a shot that Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay couldn't handle, allowing two more runners to score for an 8-1 advantage.

Gibson again flirted with danger in the bottom half of the inning, allowing the Yanks to load the bases with nobody out. The right-hander, who escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the second, again limited the damage this time around, yielding only a pair of runs on back-to-back fielder's choice groundouts.

He went on to pitch five-plus innings, allowing three runs (two earned) off five hits and four walks. The 25-year-old has now issued four walks in each of his last two starts after walking just one hitter in his first two combined.

"Gibby battled through it. He kind of nit-picked around the zone; we'd like to see him attack the zone a lot more," Gardenhire said. "He just kind of picked a little too much for our liking, the game was slow-paced, and he knows that. He's got to do a little better."

On Sunday, though, he did plenty to help the Twins earn their first series victory in their last seven tries overall and improve to 39-53 entering the break.

"We still have to live with the way we played in the first half, and our record's not very good," Gardenhire said. "But coming here and winning two out of three -- going into the break winning two out of three -- you're going to go into the break feeling a little bit better about ourselves. That's kind of what we get out of this, but hopefully it's something to build on."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
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