MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins left Kansas City this past weekend after taking two of three from the Royals, first baseman Justin Morneau proclaimed that the club was lucky to have escaped with a series victory. The Twins didn't play the cleanest baseball in that series. There were defensive miscues, the pitching was at times shaky and the offense never really got hot. But after sealing a series win over the Yankees with a 4-2 victory on Wednesday afternoon -- their second "W" of the three-game set -- the feeling inside the Twins' clubhouse was much different.
"It was a lot better performance," Morneau said. "We made the plays we're supposed to make, and we didn't really give anything away. ... It seems like whenever we come back home, we are more comfortable and we play better. We had a chance to win all three of these [contests]." After missing an opportunity to pull off a victory on Tuesday night following Delmon Young's game-tying three-run homer in the eighth inning, Minnesota managed to rebound on Wednesday -- thanks in large part to an additional boost from Young. The Twins left fielder delivered yet another three-run shot to right field, this time off Yankees starter Darrell Rasner in the fourth inning to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead. It marked the first time in Young's career that he had homered in back-to-back games. Young is now batting .307 since the All-Star break, and four of his seven homers on the season have come in the second half. "It's nice to see him picking us up a little bit," Morneau said. "If he keeps driving the ball like that, we'll be in pretty good shape. That's what we expected him to do when he came over here. And he's doing it right at the right time, when other guys in the lineup aren't swinging as well." The Twins were also helped by a strong start from one of their young starters. Kevin Slowey gave up a run in the first inning on Wednesday, the first time he's done that in 19 starts this season. But that was the only run that Slowey (9-8) allowed over his six innings. After giving up back-to-back hits to Alex Rodriguez, a double to center, and Jason Giambi, an RBI single to right, Slowey settled in and retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced. "After that first inning, I think we did a good job to eliminate misses up," said Slowey, who is now 7-2 in 11 starts since June 13. "If I was going to throw a ball that was high, throw high-high, up around the head. If it was going to be low, then aim ankle low." The right-hander threw only 91 pitches and likely would have been sent out for the seventh had it not been for an extended delay in the bottom of the sixth. After loading the bases, Yankees right-hander Dan Giese left with a right shoulder injury. The pitching change was followed by an injury to home-plate umpire Mike Winters later in the sixth, further delaying the game. By the time the seventh started and the Twins had added one run on Brian Buscher's sac fly to left field, nearly 30 minutes had passed and Gardenhire said he wasn't about to turn to Slowey again -- even if the right-hander felt he was ready to keep pitching. "He was walking around, trying to stay loose, but [pitching coach Rick Anderson] and I looked at him and told him, 'No chance,'" Gardenhire said. "We can't take a risk of running him back out there after that long. We are just not going to do it." So after using eight pitchers in the 12-inning loss to New York on Tuesday, Gardenhire was forced to ad-lib a bit this time around. He turned to left-hander Craig Breslow for a quick seventh, but Breslow found some trouble in the eighth, when he gave up back-to-back singles. That's when Gardenhire stormed out of the dugout and called for left-hander Dennys Reyes. But he was stopped quickly by the now-three-man umpiring staff because Gardenhire had called for the pitching change before the Yankees had announced their batter. It was Richie Sexson, a right-handed hitter, who was pinch-hitting for Melky Cabrera. Gardenhire admits he might not have made a change had he realized it was Sexson, but since he had already made the call, it left Reyes to face the batter. "I screwed up going out too early," Gardenhire said. "I've got to wait and let him announce him. There is no doubt about it. I was honestly just [ticked]. I came firing out of dugout. I said to Dennys, 'Please pick me up here.'" Reyes got Sexson to strike out swinging and then got Johnny Damon to ground out for the second out of the inning. But on what would have been the third out -- Bobby Abreu's swinging strikeout -- a wild pitch by Reyes allowed Abreu to reach first base while plating Ivan Rodriguez from third. With Alex Rodriguez on deck as the go-ahead run and the way things had been going for the Twins recently, it seemed like a particularly tense situation. But it was one that didn't last long, as right-hander Jesse Crain came in and got Rodriguez to fly out to center fielder Carlos Gomez. Joe Nathan then came in for the ninth and recorded his 32nd save of the season. The victory moved the Twins into a temporary tie for first place in the American League Central with the White Sox, who were scheduled to face the Royals in Chicago later Wednesday night. It's been a daily back-and-forth battle for the division lead between the White Sox and Twins over the past week. Neither team has felt like they are particularly playing their best baseball. So while this Yankees series was better for Minnesota, the feeling is that there still is plenty of room for improvement. "We're winning series and that's all that matters," Joe Mauer said. "That's what we set out to do ever since spring. To beat New York at home is a good thing. We're playing pretty good, but I know we can get better."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.