MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have made it no secret that they enjoy playing the role of spoiler down the stretch against contending teams.
And they played that role to perfection on Tuesday night against the Yankees, rallying to a 5-4 win at Target Field with a four-run seventh inning.
Denard Span came through with the go-ahead hit in the seventh and admitted it was even sweeter coming against the Yankees, who have beaten the Twins 26 times over their last 33 meetings, including the postseason.
"It's always good to beat the Yankees, no matter what time of year it is," Span said with a smile. "Even if it's Spring Training. I used to love beating them even in A-ball. Yeah, it's always fun to beat those guys."
With the loss, the American League East-leading Yankees remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Orioles, who lost to the Blue Jays, 4-0. The Twins have a chance to do more damage on Wednesday in the series finale, even though they've long been out of contention.
"That's all we can do," said closer Glen Perkins, who picked up his 15th save. "We've put ourselves in a position where we're not impacting our season, so we can go out there and win games against teams that are fighting for the playoffs. If that's all we get out of it, that's what we get, and that's our goal right now."
The Twins were given a chance to rally after Esmerling Vasquez kept them in the game by delivering the first quality start of his career.
Vasquez, making his fifth career start, held the Yankees in check over six strong innings. The right-hander gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five.
"I feel great," Vasquez said. "It's a quality start against the Yankees, and that's a good team. I tried to throw strikes and put everything together, and I feel pretty good for that."
But Vasquez was saddled with a no-decision, as Minnesota took a late lead against Phil Hughes and reliever Boone Logan in the decisive seventh.
Hughes, working with a two-run cushion, loaded the bases with one out in the seventh when Jamey Carroll reached on an infield single after Ryan Doumit had singled and Chris Parmelee had walked to cap a 10-pitch plate appearance.
Hughes was able to get Pedro Florimon to strike out for the second out of the inning but was then lifted for Logan, who was brought in to face Span.
The move backfired, however, as the first pitch from the left-handed Logan went to the backstop, allowing Doumit to score and Parmelee and Carroll to advance. Five pitches later, Span laced a two-run double on a 3-2 slider to give the Twins a lead they would keep.
"Boone had had a ton of success against Span, but it didn't work," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I didn't think his slider was as sharp as it has been."
Joe Mauer then gave the Twins an insurance run with his third hit of the night, an RBI single off Logan. Mauer, who raised his batting average to .326, had singled and scored in the fourth inning on a double from Parmelee.
Over the final two innings, relievers Jared Burton and Perkins combined to contain the Yankees, who hit three homers but were otherwise silenced.
New York's first two runs came in the fourth inning on one swing of the bat from Nick Swisher, who crushed one off Vasquez after Robinson Cano had led off the frame with a single. It was Swisher's second homer in as many days and his 24th of the year.
The Yankees added a solo homer in the seventh off reliever Casey Fien, as catcher Russell Martin matched a career high with his 19th homer of the year. Andruw Jones pulled New York within a run with two outs in the top of the ninth, hitting a pinch-hit homer. The three homers from the Yankees came a night after they hit four in Monday's series opener.
"It's exciting," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The fans were into it. The guys were into it in the dugout, for sure, trying to figure out a way to get on base. Hughes threw the ball very well. We came up with some big at-bats, some big hits. Span finishes it off there with a big one. It was a nice win. Our bullpen came in and did a really solid job, and Vasquez was great."