NEW YORK — Even as he had a few lingering thoughts warming up, Phil Hughes insisted there was not any extra incentive facing his former team for the first time since wins can be difficult to come by.
The rest of the Minnesota Twins could see the emotions in his face and were motivated to get him a victory on a day when he pitched so well.
Hughes pitched eight strong innings and picked up the win when the Twins stormed back with six runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 7-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
“I don’t think it means any more than any other start,” Hughes said. “This game can be pretty cruel sometimes. I went through that last year. You never take wins for granted no matter what. Obviously I have some history here but satisfaction postgame isn’t different than any other win.”
“You come back and you want to do well,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s human nature and that’s the way it is in this game. It’s not like you’re here to try show somebody they made a mistake, it’s baseball and everybody moves on. Players move on all the time. He wanted to come here for this baseball team the Minnesota Twins and do well, give us a chance to win and that’s exactly what he did.”
Hughes (6-1) didn’t hear much of a reaction from the fans, who often booed him when he went 4-14 last season for the Yankees. The reaction in the Minnesota dugout was players talking to each other and urging on hits in the ninth against closer David Robertson (0-2), who had converted 12-of-13 save opportunities before Sunday.
The Twins did just that equaling their most productive inning of the season and getting four hits and two walks against three Yankees relievers and giving Hughes a win in his first appearance since finishing up a seven-year Yankee career by going 4-14 in 2013.
“He enjoys it,” Minnesota infielder Eduardo Nunez said. “You can see it in his face. Before I don’t think he (was having) fun. Everybody has a bad year. He’s human. Sometimes people say you (stink). It happens to everybody.”
The Twins tied the game when left fielder Josh Willingham drove Robertson’s first pitch over the left field fence for his third home run and went from there.
“It was awesome what he did out there tonight,” Willingham said. “I think we definitely we were getting a little frustrated because he was throwing the ball so well and we wanted to get him some runs, so I’m glad we did that.”
After catcher Kurt Suzuki and center fielder Aaron Hicks walked, second baseman Brian Dozier lined a 2-1 cutter into left field for the go-ahead double. The Yankees opted to intentionally walk first baseman Joe Mauer and Nunez made it 5-2 with a two-run double to right field off Matt Daley.
“I just made some mistakes and it cost us the game,” Robertson said.
Minnesota won for the third time in 28 games when trailing through eight and completed its fourth win in the last six visits to Yankee Stadium by getting a two-run single from right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, who had homered and had three outfield assists in the series.
Before the dramatics of the ninth, Hughes was in line for a hard-luck loss and his first defeat since April 15 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The former New York first-round pick allowed two runs and three hits -- all in the fourth.
The right-hander retired the final 15 hitters he faced while striking out six and issuing two walks as he threw 72-of-100 pitches for strikes. He also went at least seven innings for the third straight start and allowed three runs or less for the eighth time in 11 starts this season.
“What we hoped would happen, happened,” Gardenhire said. “He was relaxed. He got through the first inning and honestly didn’t try to overthrow the ball.”
The Yankees lost for the ninth time in their last 14 home games and fell to 24-2 when leading after eight innings. The loss spoiled a strong showing by Yankee pitchers Chase Whitley, who struck out six in five innings, Dellin Betances who struck out five in the sixth and seventh and Adam Warren, who pitched a scoreless eighth.
New York’s only offense came in the third when it put together three singles and had the bases loaded. The Yankees only managed an RBI single by Derek Jeter and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki that gave them a 2-1 lead until the ninth.
“These are the guys we have and we have to find a way to get it done,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We had the bases loaded up and nobody out and were only able to come away with one run. Those are the situations that we really need to capitalize and we weren’t able to do that today.”
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead on a two-out RBI single by third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the third.
NOTES: RHP Michael Pineda said that the discomfort in his upper back is in the exact same place as the original injury in the upper back muscle near the right shoulder and reiterated that his surgically repaired shoulder feels fine. The Yankees said that Pineda will be shut down for at least 10 days. ... Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire challenged a call on a ground ball by 2B Brian Dozier in the third but did not get it overturned following a review of two minutes, 11 seconds. ... The Yankees lost a challenge on a close play at first for the final out of the eighth on Brett Gardner’s ground ball and that review lasted two minutes, three seconds.