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Robertson blows save, Hughes silences slumping Yanks in return as Twins rally late for 7-2 win

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - David Robertson was booed off the mound after blowing a save at Yankee Stadium. New York's slumping lineup didn't muster much to cheer about, either.

Phil Hughes pitched eight poised innings in his return to the Bronx and wound up a winner when the Minnesota Twins rallied past the Yankees 7-2 Sunday behind big hits from Josh Willingham and Brian Dozier in a six-run ninth.

"These are the guys we have and they've got to find a way to get it done," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "We've got to be able to score more runs."

With the Yankees missing injured sluggers Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, their last 18 batters went down in order. New York managed only six runs while losing two of three in the series and has dropped nine of its last 13 home games.

"Can't make excuses," Girardi said. "We need to get some guys going."

Willingham belted a tying homer on the first pitch from Robertson, denying rookie Chase Whitley his first major league victory. Robertson (0-2) then walked two batters and gave up Dozier's two-out double, putting the Twins on top 3-2.

Eduardo Nunez, also let go by the Yankees, lined a two-run double on Matt Daley's first pitch. Oswaldo Arcia added a two-run single off Matt Thornton to make it 7-2.

Hughes (6-1) held his former team to three hits — all in a row to begin the fourth — and retired his final 15 batters during his sixth straight win.

"It was a little bit strange," said Hughes, who tipped his cap to Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild while walking onto the field.

"But once I got on the mound, it just kind of cleared away and I was just able to focus on how I was going to pitch. After the first inning, I was just hoping I wouldn't start walking toward their dugout."

Hughes never quite lived up to lofty expectations in New York, though he did make his mark during seven seasons in pinstripes. He was a key member of the bullpen in 2009, helping the Yankees to a World Series championship, and made the All-Star team while winning 18 games the following year.

But he faded to 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA last season, struggling with the homer-friendly dimensions at Yankee Stadium. With the second-highest flyball ratio among major league starters, he went 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA at home.

"He didn't need too much real estate here today," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Minnesota, which plays at pitcher-friendly Target Field, signed Hughes to a $24 million, three-year contract in December, and he's off to a terrific start with his new team. He acknowledged Friday there would be "some weird at-bats" when he faced his former teammates.

"We all know how big this is for him," Gardenhire said before the game.

There wasn't much reaction when Hughes' name was announced during pregame introductions. A small smattering of boos, maybe. Mostly, collective apathy from a crowd still filing in.

Then the right-hander went out and showed New York fans he's no longer the floundering pitcher they last saw.

Looking all grown up on the mound with a well-manicured beard, Hughes came right after the Yankees with 91-94 mph fastballs and cutters. He faced the minimum through three innings and only had trouble in the fourth.

Brett Gardner tripled off the auxiliary scoreboard in right-centre and Derek Jeter singled. After a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and a rare walk to Brian McCann, Hughes did not permit another baserunner.

"He stayed away from long counts," Girardi said. "His cutter seems to be more consistent this year."

Ichiro Suzuki's bases-loaded sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. It stayed that way until the ninth, when Robertson was charged with five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

He was booed lustily after his second blown save in 14 chances since taking over as closer for Mariano Rivera.

"I just made some big mistakes and it cost us the game," Robertson said. "I just couldn't make any quality pitches. I stunk today, what can I say?

"I'm itching to get out there to prove I can still do this."

Trevor Plouffe had a two-out RBI single for the Twins in the third.

Hughes struck out six and walked two, throwing 72 of 100 pitches for strikes. He went 178 straight batters without issuing a walk before McCann drew a free pass on a full count leading off the second.

"We didn't square up too many balls off him," Ellsbury said. "I don't know what it was today. Give him a lot of credit. He was pounding the zone, making pitches when he needed to.

"I think it's just a matter of time before the offence really breaks out. It'll be nice when everything clicks."

NOTES: Beltran (right elbow) is headed to Tampa, Florida, to begin taking at-bats in extended spring training Monday. "I wouldn't imagine it's going to be real, real long. I would hope that we would see him fairly soon here," Girardi said. ... Kelly Johnson played first base in place of Teixeira, who sat out as expected after leaving Saturday's game because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right wrist. The slugger received a cortisone shot and will likely miss at least two games. "We'll see where we're at Tuesday," Girardi said. "The doctor was pretty reassuring. They don't think it's serious, but inflammation can be a pain in the rear — or the wrist." ... New York RHP David Phelps (1-2, 3.38 ERA) faces Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.57) on Monday night in the makeup of an April 30 rainout. ... There was a moment of silence before the game for Lewis Katz, a minority owner of the Yankees who died Saturday night in a plane crash. He was 72.

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