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NYY@MIN: Gonzalez impresses with bat and in the field

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Yankees squeezed another encouraging start out of Phil Hughes, marveled as Robinson Cano continued to swing his red-hot bat and celebrated as Alberto Gonzalez stepped out of his bench role to provide a spark from the bottom of the lineup.

June may have been brutal, but July is treating the Yankees just fine so far. New York posted its second consecutive win on Tuesday, rolling to a 7-3 thumping of Minnesota at Target Field, with Hughes picking up his first victory in four starts.

"They had a lot of lefties in the lineup, and I felt like I was able to get my fastball inside to those guys, for the most part," Hughes said. "I made a few critical pitches when I had to to get out of some jams, the offense did their job, and it was a good win."

Starting in place of Jayson Nix, who is resting a sore right hamstring, Gonzalez drove in three runs -- his first three RBIs for the Yankees this season -- and Cano homered for the fourth time in three games. The Yankees' slumping lineup has suddenly produced 17 runs in two games since arriving in Minneapolis.

"All you want is at least one guy on the team, like I was doing last month," Cano said. "You want at least one guy that you can get on base for that guy. But the last two games, it's been everybody. So we scored 10 last night, seven tonight. That's good."

Mariano Rivera was honored by the Twins before the game, presented with a rocking chair assembled from various bats he has shattered over the years, and the future Hall of Fame closer completed the night by recording a two-pitch save.

"I'm going to put it in the trophy room with the rest of the stuff," Rivera said. "We'll take care of it and appreciate it."

The news might have been all positive for the Yankees had Hiroki Kuroda not been absent. The club's most reliable starter was sent back to New York for an MRI on his sore left hip flexor -- tests came back clean -- and he will be replaced by Ivan Nova for Friday's start against the Orioles.

"That's what you want, a clean MRI," manager Joe Girardi said of the results. "He was a little tender after the game on Sunday, so it's good news. He said he felt better today."

Gonzalez, a light-hitting defensive infielder who started the season with the Cubs, got the Yankees' biggest hit off Twins starter Samuel Deduno. Gonzalez stroked a two-run double down the right-field line in the fifth inning, giving New York a lead it would not relinquish.

"Everyone knows very well what my role on this team is," Gonzalez said through an interpreter. "Joe knows it, I know it. I'm always ready, I work very, very hard at every practice, at every position, and I'm always ready when the team needs me and when the manager needs me."

Gonzalez scored the Yankees' third run later that inning after Deduno misplayed a slow Ichiro Suzuki roller that appeared to be heading foul but instead went for an RBI single. Deduno allowed three runs and five hits over six innings.

The support would be enough for Hughes, who followed up on a strong effort his last time out, against the Rangers, by allowing a run on six hits over seven innings, posting a win for the first time since June 6, at Seattle.

"I think he's been more consistent. I also think it's fastball command, too," Girardi said. "I think that's really important for him, but I think when you're mixing all your pitches, sometimes you get away with a little bit more."

Hughes flashed the ability to pitch out of a big spot of trouble when the Twins had runners at second and third with none out in the fourth; Hughes responded by striking out Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks before inducing Pedro Florimon to ground out.

"I felt like it really kind of swung the momentum in our favor, just to get out of that inning without letting any runs score," Hughes said.

Joe Mauer's third-inning RBI single accounted for the Twins' only run off Hughes, who walked two and struck out three. Mauer had a hit taken away in the fifth inning by a nice diving catch by Gonzalez, who flopped to his chest in the outfield.

"That was a great play," Hughes said. "It's always frustrating as a pitcher when those balls fall in; for a second there, I thought it [would]. He went out and made a tremendous catch."

New York broke open the game in the seventh inning, pounding Minnesota's Anthony Swarzak for four runs.

Gonzalez drove in his third run of the night with a check-swing RBI single to right field to knock in David Adams, and Cano put the game out of reach with a tape-measure three-run blast toward the old Metropolitan Stadium flagpole in right field.

Cano has caught fire on this road trip, stroking 12 hits in 21 at-bats with four homers and eight RBIs in five games against the Orioles and Twins, but he seems more pleased to have had some help in the production department from the unsung Gonzalez.

"That was good. That's what you want," Cano said. "Not only one or two guys, but you want the rest of the guys that come from the bench. That's what we were doing at the beginning of the season. The guys from the bench came up and helped us win."

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