MINNEAPOLIS -- Andy Pettitte looks like he'll be a difference maker in the Yankees' rotation as they make their push for the postseason.
Working six shutout innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list, Pettitte looked strong again in leading the Yankees to a 6-3 win over the Twins in front of 33,720 at Target Field on Monday. The win extended first-place New York's lead over the Orioles in the American League East to 1 1/2 games, as Baltimore dropped the second game of its doubleheader with Toronto, 9-5, moments before the Yankees wrapped up their win.
Until Monday, the Yankees and Orioles had been separated in the standings by no more than one game for 21 straight days.
Pettitte had plenty of support from the Yankees, who hit four home runs -- the most by any team against the Twins this season -- including Curtis Granderson's fourth-inning drive, which made him just the fifth player in Yankees history to record 40 homers in back-to-back seasons. With the homer, Granderson joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.
Pettitte's fifth win of the season came in his 500th career appearance. He's 2-0 and hasn't allowed a run in 11 innings since returning from a fractured left fibula, which kept him sidelined for more than two months.
"I love this guy," said Nick Swisher, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning. "There's nothing that fazes him. He comes back, breaks his foot on a crazy play, has been itching to get back in the [rotation] for a long time, and once he does, he delivers -- every single time. You can only just look at that and be like, 'Man, I want to be like that.'"
Initially, Pettitte's outing didn't appear as if it would go so smoothly. He allowed back-to-back singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to open the bottom of the first inning. Pettitte issued Josh Willingham a one-out walk after inducing a flyout from Joe Mauer, loading the bases for Justin Morneau.
But Pettitte caught the veteran slugger looking at a called third strike and got Ryan Doumit to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning after 23 pitches.
Pettitte largely cruised from the second inning through the sixth, giving up only five hits and putting together three 1-2-3 innings in that span. Manager Joe Girardi said Pettitte would be limited to 85-90 pitches, and the left-hander finished with 88, 53 of which were strikes.
Helping Pettitte's cause were the two double-play balls he was able to induce, indicating to Girardi that he's the "same old Andy."
"I feel like I'm able to relax and get the ball where I want to," Pettitte said of his ability to execute in important situations. "It's crazy, but maybe the focus goes just a little bit tighter when you get in a little bit tougher jams."
Derek Jeter -- who lined a ninth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 18 games -- scored the first run of the game in the opening frame, coming home on Robinson Cano's groundout after leading off with a walk. The rest of New York's runs came via the long ball.
Swisher tacked on two by hitting his 23rd home run with two outs in the first, and Granderson's solo homer was a 437-foot blast to the upper deck in right-center field.
Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez each added a solo home run in the seventh inning.
All four homers came against Minnesota starter Liam Hendriks.
"They swung the bats really well tonight and took advantage of the pitches I left up," Hendriks said. "I looked at the video, and all four home runs were in the same spot -- one changeup and three fastballs -- up and away."
Granderson also starred defensively, cutting down Doumit at home plate to end the bottom of the fourth with a great throw after Jamey Carroll singled to center. Catcher Russell Martin also positioned himself perfectly to make the tag.
"It's a tough play," Girardi said. "Russell picks it and puts on a quick tag -- it's a big play in that game."
Minnesota didn't score until the eighth, when Cory Wade allowed Pedro Florimon's first career home run. The Twins added two in the ninth on Chris Parmelee's two-out triple to center field, but David Robertson retired Florimon via a groundout in the next at-bat to end the game.
The Yankees have won 26 of their last 32 games against the Twins, and Pettitte is undefeated in his last 12 starts against them, having gone 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in that span.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire -- who has faced Pettitte plenty of times throughout his career -- hasn't noticed much of a change in the lefty, even at 40 years of age.
"He's real competitive and precise with what he does on the mound," Gardenhire said. "You don't see him miss out over the plate too much. He pounds it inside and backdoors the breaking ball and has a good changeup.
"Not too much is different. Maybe the velocity, but he's still a very good pitcher to this day."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.