Twins' Hughes earns win in first game back at Yankee Stadium
JUN 01, 2014 5:03p ET
He now has his first win there as a visitor.
After going eight innings in his longest outing of the year, Hughes was rewarded with a six-run ninth inning by Minnesota's offense in the Twins' 7-2 win to give Hughes a victory in his old stomping grounds. Hughes spent the first seven years of his career in Yankee pinstripes, which made Sunday's start in the Bronx extra special.
"What we hoped would happen happened," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hughes in his return to New York. "He was relaxed, got through the first inning and honestly he didn't try to overthrow the ball. . . . It's fun to watch. He's under complete control and moving the ball in and out."
Hughes came into Sunday's game on a pretty impressive roll, having won five of his last seven starts (with the Twins also winning those two in which he earned no-decisions). He hadn't walked a batter since April 20, a streak of 175 batters. That streak ended quickly Sunday, though, as Hughes walked Yankees catcher Brian McCann to lead off the second inning after failing to issue a walk over his last 178 batters. Despite the rare walk, Hughes was able to get out of the second by facing the minimum after getting Ichiro Suzuki to ground into an inning-ending double play.
After Minnesota scored a run in the third inning, Hughes ran into trouble in the fourth inning as the Yankees jumped on him for a pair of runs, thanks in part to a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and an RBI single by Derek Jeter. The damage could have been worse, though, as New York had the bases loaded and nobody out but pushed across just one run with the bases full on a sacrifice fly by Suzuki. Hughes effectively wriggled out of the jam to trail 2-1 after four innings.
"He never stopped attacking," Gardenhire said. "He made some pitches when he had to, and that's what baseball's all about."
That was the last time Hughes was in trouble all day. He retired the final 12 batters he faced over his last four innings of work, giving the Twins a chance in the ninth inning. Trailing 2-1, Minnesota jumped on Yankees closer David Robertson with a six-run ninth. Josh Willingham tied the game with a solo homer to left, and Brian Dozier doubled in a pair of runs to put the Twins on top before Minnesota added a few insurance runs.
The Twins' late rally put Hughes in position to get a victory, and reliever Caleb Thielbar pitched a flawless ninth inning to indeed earn Hughes his team-high sixth win of the year. In the process, Hughes also lowered his ERA to 3.12 and has now thrust himself into All-Star discussions.
Leading up to Sunday's start, Hughes was constantly asked about his return to the Big Apple. While he certainly had some memorable moments with the Yankees -- including a World Series in 2009 and an All-Star appearance in 2010 -- his final season in the Bronx was a rough one. He went just 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA before hitting the free agent market this winter.
The Twins signed him to a three-year deal this offseason, and he's quickly become Minnesota's best starter. As he prepared to face his old team, Hughes downplayed any talk of a possible revenge factor as he returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time in a different uniform.
Instead, he let his pitching speak for him on Sunday.
"You know how it is when you come back, you've been a place and you move on and you come back. You want to do well. It's human nature," Gardenhire said. "It's the way it is in this game. It's not like you're here to try to show somebody they made a mistake. It's baseball. Everybody moves on. Players move on all the time. He wanted to come here for this baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, and do well and pitch well and give us a chance to win, and that's exactly what he did."
FOX Sports North's Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter