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MIN@NYY: Girardi stresses importance of CC's start

NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi has made lineup changes before that have reaped rewards. Much of his shuffling before Tuesday's game was done out of necessity, but it still did the trick, nonetheless.

With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms, Brett Gardner making a rare appearance against a left-handed starter and Chris Stewart giving Russell Martin his first day off this season, the Yankees gave ace CC Sabathia all the run support he needed in an 8-3 victory against the Twins at Yankee Stadium.

"My coaching decision was kind of made for me when I saw how Tex looked a little bit," Girardi said. "Those guys have to go out and do the job, and they went out and did the job."

It was Sabathia's first win of the year, and the Yankees staff's third quality start of the young season. After surrendering nine runs and 16 hits in 12 innings over his first two starts, Sabathia settled down to go 7 1/3 strong innings.

"I felt a lot better today," Sabathia said. "My velocity wasn't quite as good as the last two games, but I think it kind of helped me stay in my delivery, not to overthrow and to throw the ball where it needed to go."

The Yankees' high-powered offense had 12 batters reach base in the first four innings alone, leaving Twins starter Francisco Liriano battered and bruised to the tune of seven hits and five earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings. Liriano threw 76 pitches -- just 37 for strikes.

"It was a battle," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's a battle for him right now. He's not able to execute well enough. He just has to keep working on it."

Sabathia was not superb himself at the outset -- he gave up a solo home run to Josh Willingham, who has recorded a hit in each of his 11 games with Minnesota this year -- but settled down after the Twins did their early damage. Clete Thomas and Jamey Carroll each had RBIs in the third to give the Twins a 3-1 lead before the Yankees jumped on top for good in the bottom of the frame.

Liriano's start unraveled when he surrendered four singles and a walk to the bottom five hitters of the Yankees' lineup. Stewart's two-run single made it 5-3 and knocked Minnesota's southpaw out of the game.

"The ball [Stewart] hit to left field that knocked Liriano out of the game, that was the biggest hit we've had all year," Gardner said. "Today was a must-win for me, with CC on the mound. That was a big hit and he had a big game and I was up on base to see it."

Stewart, who had just three at-bats and no hits entering Tuesday's ballgame, finished the day 2-for-4 with a career-best three RBIs.

Gardner, a .230 career hitter against left-handed starters, got the opportunity to swing against Liriano on Tuesday because he had favorable numbers (5-for-12) against the Twins hurler. The speedy outfielder finished the day 2-for-2 with two doubles, two walks and three runs scored.

Andruw Jones hit a solo homer in the fourth off Twins reliever Matt Maloney, and Derek Jeter tallied an RBI single in the fifth, upping the New York advantage to 7-3. Stewart then added an RBI single in the seventh. Sabathia, meanwhile, retired the Twins in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

"I thought he started to find his location down and away better and I thought all of his stuff got better," Girardi said. "He just started to make better pitches. In the third inning, he gave up the two runs, and gave up a few hits in a row and after that, it was not a whole lot."

Gardenhire, who was ejected along with Denard Span in the third inning for arguing with home-plate umpire Greg Gibson, is now 6-29 in the Bronx since he began managing the Twins in 2002.

It is the second win in three days for the Yankees, who recorded a season-high 13 hits -- six from their bottom three hitters.

"Any time we get a chance to get into the game, period, and our time comes up to produce and we're able to do it, that's awesome," Stewart said. "All 25 of us, we're just trying to get a win every night. If our name gets called that game, we're gonna do what we can do and it worked out tonight for us." Comments