Yanks pour on runs in rout of Twins
Wang shuts out Minnesota in seven dominant innings
NEW YORK -- If the Yankees are going to make a push toward their usual destination of postseason play, they'll have to see underperforming areas of their starting lineup come to life.
For at least one night, the most inconsistent parts of the Yankees offense all worked in harmony. Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui shouldered much of the load to help Chien-Ming Wang down the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, 8-0.
"It was a good game," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "It just gives you an indication, when a couple of guys start hitting, all of a sudden it sort of relieves some of the tension. Guys start being themselves instead of trying to force something."
The contest featured Cano snapping a dry spell of 112 at-bats without a home run, Matsui shunning his pull-happy ways to contribute two hits, and a second consecutive three-hit night from the long-troubled Abreu.
"We scored a lot of runs like we're supposed to," Abreu said. "We played a better game and our pitching responded like it's supposed to. There was a lot of action in every inning."
All of the excitement, it turned out, was provided by the Yankees, who recorded just their second shutout of the season and their first since May 6 at Seattle.
They did so behind seven scoreless innings from Wang, who admitted that even he was surprised to have thrown that many zeroes on the board against the Twins, spending much of his night trying to ignore a cracked nail on his right middle finger.
While Wang wasn't at his most efficient, he was able to navigate past damage, walking four and striking out three in a 101-pitch performance to log his team-leading eighth victory.
He most notably sidestepped a tight situation in the fourth inning, guarding a 1-0 lead in what catcher Jorge Posada would later credit as a turning point.
One night after straining his left hamstring beating out a fielder's choice, Alex Rodriguez played a key role in helping keep Minnesota off the board, a frame that saw Wang walk three batters -- one erased by a caught stealing -- and allow a hit.
With Minnesota turned away, the Yankees took advantage. Cano added power in the fourth, lofting a hanging breaking ball into the right-field seats in the fourth inning for a two-run homer.
The home run was Cano's fourth of the season and ended a drought of 112 homerless at-bats for the second baseman, his first since June 1 at Boston, but more importantly, it opened things up for Wang, who would face the minimum in two of the next three innings before yielding to the bullpen.
"That's why I was so happy about the homer," Cano said. "It's not because I hit it hard, but when I hit it, it was with men on base with two outs, and it made the game 3-0."
After suffering losses in his previous two starts at San Francisco and Baltimore, Wang said he consciously decided to alter his arm slot to a higher point, returning his form to more closely resemble his action from earlier in the season.
The tweak, performed in Wang's side session following his defeat at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, worked.
"He bore down and really made pitches when he needed to," Posada said. "Ground-ball outs. Even when he's not well, his sinker is so difficult when he keeps it down."
Wang had plenty of support by the end of the night, particularly as the Yankees batted around in a five-run sixth inning that chased Minnesota's Carlos Silva.
It was a frame that began with laughs on the Yankees bench, as Roger Clemens and bench coach Don Mattingly were among the most vocal ribbing the sight of Posada -- slow-footed catcher that he is -- legging it to third base as Hunter misplayed a single, the ball skipping under his glove for a two-base error.
"I almost missed second base," Posada confessed. "It's a tough one to get to third base."
The dash home was simpler, scoring on a Silva wild pitch, and opened an inning that made the Yankees feel a whole lot better about their production.
Matsui doubled and scored on an Abreu single, and after Cano was hit by a pitch, Melky Cabrera stroked a run-scoring single. Derek Jeter drove in another run, his second RBI of the night and part of a three-hit game, to complete the barrage.
"The more hitters we have who start hitting the ball hard, the better it is for the team," Matsui said. "The results are going to be there."
Leaving the stadium, the Yankees added one more storyline to the mix -- the Major League debut of 26-year-old right-hander Edwar Ramirez, who recorded three swinging strikeouts on nasty changeups.
Ramirez's feel-good story -- twice released by the Angels organization, out of baseball for all of 2004, and plucked from the roster of an independent league club in Edinburg, Tex., last year -- was just one more thing for the Yankees to trumpet on a night when everything else seemed to go right.
"Sometimes things are contagious," Jeter said. "It seems like a couple guys start swinging the bats and everyone picks it up. You hope it can last for at least the rest of this homestand."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.