MINNEAPOLIS -- Never mind that Alex Rodriguez wasn't in New York's lineup on Wednesday. Never mind that Mark Teixeira has been out for most of the last month. And forget that Robinson Cano has struggled for most of September, because the Yankees' lineup -- no matter whom Joe Girardi seems to insert in it -- continues to produce.
New York erupted for six runs in the third inning, backing up eight strong innings from CC Sabathia to secure an 8-2 series-clinching victory over Minnesota in front of 33,251 at Target Field.
The win enabled New York to keep its 1 1/2-game lead over Baltimore in the American League East after the Orioles routed the Blue Jays, 12-2.
New York's victory also marks its 11th 90-win season in the last 12 years and its sixth consecutive season-series win against the Twins.
The Yankees' monstrous third inning seemed to immediately stomp out any hope the Twins had at winning the series -- a day after Minnesota used a big seventh inning to take a 5-4 victory. Eight of New York's starting hitters -- all except for Raul Ibanez -- reached base in the inning, which saw the Yankees tally five hits.
Sabathia threw eight strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out 10. The only runs against him came on RBI singles from Matt Carson and Pedro Florimon in the second and seventh innings, respectively.
Sabathia's first win since Aug. 24 at Cleveland broke a three-game personal losing streak, and he has struck out 21 batters in his last two starts.
"I think just having my fastball command is really where it starts," Sabathia said. "Me being able to spot it up makes a big difference. Being able to come in, go away with it -- I got some strikeouts with them looking on fastballs -- so being able to command that definitely helps."
The left-hander is 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last 11 combined regular-season and postseason starts against Minnesota. Twins catcher Joe Mauer -- who struck out three times vs. Sabathia on nine pitches as part of an 0-for-4 day vs. the lefty -- said Wednesday's performance was the best he's seen from him.
"That's the best I've seen him, and I've been watching him for a long time," Mauer said. "When I was up there, he was both sides of the plate -- fastball, slider, sinker -- he threw me everything, and everything was working."
Surprisingly, none of New York's six third-inning runs came via the long ball. New York needed seven home runs to score nine of its 10 runs in the first two games in the series.
With Minnesota starter Samuel Deduno leaving in the second inning due to eye irritation, the Yankees -- even with a lineup including seven left-handed hitters -- took advantage in the third against southpaw reliever Brian Duensing.
"I think you have to [take advantage of that situation]," Nick Swisher said. "That's a tough spot [for Duensing] to come into. ... Anytime that you can get that starter out and get into that 'pen, that's when you really start to eat a little bit."
Chris Dickerson and Ichiro Suzuki registered back-to-back one-out singles, which were followed by a Derek Jeter walk to load the bases for Cano. Cano responded by driving a two-run double to right field to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Swisher added an RBI single and -- with Cano -- scored on Curtis Granderson's fourth triple of the season, ripped down the right-field line.
Granderson then came around on a wild pitch in the next at-bat, which saw Eric Chavez earn a walk. Ibanez grounded out before the Twins finally hooked Duensing for Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak walked Chris Stewart before ending the inning with a strikeout of Dickerson, but the Yankees had already seized a 6-1 lead.
The big margin let Sabathia pitch aggressively -- 89 of his 118 pitches were for strikes. The 118 pitches were also his third most in a game this season.
"We haven't had many big breakout innings like that [recently]," Swisher said. "It kind of seems like any time we give our pitcher a little breathing room, they really bear down and get the job done."
Jeter's hit streak was snapped at 19 games as he went 0-for-4, but Ichiro tallied two hits to extend his streak to 10 games. Swisher has tallied hits in his last nine games, hitting .353 (12-for-34) with four home runs during that span.
Sabathia was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts from Sept. 3-14. But in his last two outings, he's allowed two runs on nine hits over 16 innings.
"This is what he can do," Girardi said. "He can string a bunch of good ones together. If there's a time, now's the time."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.