When Phil Hughes takes the mound in Sunday's rubber match between the Twins and the Yankees, he'll be doing so for the first time as a visitor at Yankee Stadium.
"It was a little weird," said Hughes on Friday about coming back to face his former team. "I didn't know where the visiting team comes in. ... I've never seen the visiting clubhouse before, so that's a little strange."
What won't be strange are the boos he's likely to hear when he takes the hill for the 11th time this season. Once deemed the next Yankees pitching great, Hughes underperformed -- and was intermittently booed -- in his seven years with New York, finishing his career with a 4.53 ERA and a winning percentage just above .500 as he fluctuated between starter and reliever.
What does he think the fans will be like?
"Probably not very good," he said. "That's the way it is, they're tough. That's what makes playing here so great, because they are the best fans, they're passionate, they love this team, they love this city. ... I've come to expect that, and so that's the way it's going to be."
Hughes boasts a 5-1 record with a 3.23 ERA this season and has dramatically turned around a sloppy start with Minnesota, a team that's 8-2 when Hughes takes the mound. After allowing four earned runs in each of his first three starts, Hughes has settled down nicely, utilizing pitcher-friendly Target Field, one of that factors he claimed was enticing in the offseason.
"I feel pretty good with my mechanics right now," said Hughes. "I've been trying to just simplify things, staying over the rubber. I feel like I never really get out of my delivery too much, which has enabled me to throw a lot of strikes, get ahead of guys, and that's where the control stuff comes from."
The Twins rekindled their bats in Friday's opener, but Masahiro Tanaka extinguished their offensive flame Saturday, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. Minnesota had lost six of seven entering the Bronx but will look to win the series Sunday before heading to Milwaukee for two games. New York hopes to spur its offense for the first time this series behind rookie Chase Whitley, who is making his debut at Yankee Stadium and against an American League team. After three road starts against National League teams -- with only four runs allowed -- Whitley is nicely adjusting to his time in New York.
"Anytime you go to a new place, whether it be a different level, different work environment, the more you're here, the more comfortable you get," he said. "I've really stuck with the same routine I've had all season."
He'll look to pick up his first Major League win and start June on a high note after earning his third straight no-decision in the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Monday.
Yankees: Struggling to find offense
After scoring just one run Friday against starter Ricky Nolasco and one against righty Kevin Correia (both pitchers are second to last and last, respectively, in ERA among qualifiers), the Yankees have been hard pressed to find offense lately.
Jacoby Ellsbury had the only extra-base hit in Friday's contest, and a few late clumped hits sparked the Yankees in Saturday's 3-1 victory. Manager Joe Girardi implemented lefty Kelly Johnson into the lineup Saturday in an effort to help the production, hoping he could utilize Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. He didn't, but lefty-hitting Brian McCann contributed a go-ahead double.
"The bottom line is scoring runs however you've got to do it, for me," said Girardi. "This is not a lineup that's filled with a ton of power. So we're going to have to put hits together and hit doubles and steal some bases and do some things like that."
Some of that creativity was on display in the eighth inning of Saturday's game when Ellsbury singled, stole second base and then advanced to third on a bad throw from the catcher. McCann broke his hitting lull and doubled him home to break a 1-1 tie.
Twins: Santana could return Sunday
Center fielder Danny Santana was held out of the lineup on Saturday after suffering a laceration above his left eye that required seven stitches during Friday's game against the Yankees. But he could return on Sunday if the swelling in his eye goes down.
"He's got a little swelling in his eye," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The trainers say he feels fine, but we don't want to take a chance with seven stitches in his eye. We're not going to take a chance with that, so we'll give him a day."
• Mark Teixeira was replaced in the lineup by Brian Roberts in the sixth inning of Saturday's game. Teixeira has been battling inflammation and soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist.
• The Yankees are 28-6 when they hold their opponent to four or fewer runs, the third-best record in the Majors.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.