MINNEAPOLIS — Liam Hendriks got that first win out of the way in his last start. Now he has to work on keeping the ball in the park.
Andy Pettitte turned in another ageless performance by pitching six scoreless innings and the New York Yankees hit four home runs Monday night to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3 and extend their AL East lead.
The Yankees took a 1 1/2-game edge over Baltimore, which split a doubleheader with Toronto. This is the first time since Sept. 2 their margin has been more than one game. The Twins lost their 90th game.
"The box score doesn't give me credit for how well I went through parts of their lineup. I think I really did well against some of their guys and kept them in check. It was just the bottom third of the order killed me," said Hendriks, who has given up 17 home runs in 78 1-3 innings this season.
Pettitte (5-3) hasn't given up a run in 11 innings since rejoining the rotation last week. The 40-year-old threw five scoreless innings against Toronto to mark his comeback from a broken lower left leg that kept him out for almost three months.
His successful unretirement, after supposedly ending his remarkable career in 2010, has been a big help for the banged-up Yankees even though this was only his 11th start of the season.
"To come back and throw shutout ball for us, I can't ask for much more than that," Pettitte said.
Nick Swisher's two-out, two-run homer in the first inning off Hendriks (1-8) sailed into the seats above right-center field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson's solo shot in the fourth went even higher and farther, landing in the second deck. Granderson became the fourth player in the majors to hit 40 homers this season.
In the bottom of that inning, Granderson made a postseason-worthy throw from center field after fielding a two-out single as Ryan Doumit raced from second base to home. The ball arrived just in time, and catcher Russell Martin made a quick sweep tag that grazed Doumit's shoulder a spilt-second before his hand touched the plate.
Then in the seventh, Raul Ibanez – who is 7 for 12 with three homers in his last three games – went deep with a drive that reached the standing room space near the gate beyond right field. Eric Chavez added one more home run against Hendriks, an opposite-field liner with one out that barely reached the flower bed in left.
The right-hander from Australia, who recorded his first major league victory last week at Cleveland after 17 starts without one, was removed after that. He gave up eight hits, six runs and one walk, striking out four.
"He locates it really well at times, but very inconsistent with it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tonight every time he missed, they really made him pay."
Those career statistics for Hendriks are a stark contrast to Pettitte, who stretched his unbeaten streak against the Twins to 12 straight starts. That dates to May 2001 and includes division series victories in 2009 and 2010.
In the first inning, the Twins loaded the bases, but Josh Willingham grounded into a double play.
"He's pitched for a long time. I don't expect him to be too worried about a little jam," Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe said.
The Yankees have had Pettitte on a pitch count in his return to help him regain strength in his legs, but he threw 88 times without any trouble. Pettitte gave up seven hits and one walk. He struck out three.
"He doesn't look much different. Maybe there's a little velocity that's not there and used to be, but he's still very good at holding runners and very quick," Gardenhire said.
NOTES: The Twins honored Jack Jablonski, the local high school hockey player paralyzed last December during a game, with a $10,000 gift toward his recovery fund. Jablonski, who made an underhand toss to Twins star Justin Morneau from a few feet away in his wheelchair, has recently been standing with help for more than 20 minutes at a time. ... Willingham left the game with a strained left shoulder, trying to catch Chavez's homer. ... Derek Jeter extended his season-high hitting to streak to 18 straight games with a ninth-inning single for the Yankees against Matt Capps, the former closer who pitched for the first time since July 16 due to a shoulder problem. ... Pedro Florimon hit his first career home run for the Twins in the eighth against Cory Wade.