Pettitte beats Twins in first start in 10 days

NEW YORK (AP) — Andy Pettitte watched Joe Mauer's drive in the sixth inning sail deep toward left-center as he headed to back up home plate, nervous that somehow the ball would elude Brett Gardner and spoil his return to the mound.

No need to worry, Andy. The Yankees' defense was that good Saturday.

Gardner caught the ball on the warning track, preserving Pettitte's two-hit performance in his first start in 10 days, and New York beat the Minnesota Twins at home for the 10th straight time in the regular season, 7-1.

"I felt fortunate to get through the game without giving up any runs," Pettitte said. "The defense played great."

Pettitte wasn't bad, either, testing his arm for the first time since leaving a start May 5 with inflammation around the left elbow. He went 6 1-3 innings and only let one runner past second.

"He made some big pitches when he had to," manager Joe Girardi said. "He had his curveball and his cutter from the beginning, which made me feel really good about how he felt."

Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada hit long two-run homers in the seventh after stingy Francisco Liriano was done. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Marcus Thames had early RBI singles for New York, and the defense made sure it was enough.

Gardner and Nick Swisher each had diving grabs. Pettitte also helped himself by catching a shot up the middle with a runner on third.

"I felt like I made a lot of mistakes but guys made some great plays behind me," Pettitte said.

After securing yet another comeback victory against Minnesota on Friday night thanks to A-Rod's seventh-inning grand slam, the Yankees led this one from the start. They haven't lost at home against the Twins since July 4, 2007, and Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire admitted before the game that his team is frustrated by all the losing in New York.

Afterward, he was still searching for answers.

"Well, we need to win, whichever way it comes," he said. "We still have tomorrow. We've lost a couple of games against the Yankees but I promise you, I promise you, it's not the end of the world. Of course if we lose tomorrow ... "

Pettitte walked three and struck out two, winning his fifth consecutive decision to match his career-best start in 1997.

Other than a sudden loss of control in the sixth, when he walked two batters with two outs and went to a 3-1 count to Mauer before he hit the drive to center, Pettitte was in command. The lefty gave up leadoff singles in the second and fourth, but double plays ended each threat.

Pettitte gave a crisp wave of the cap with his left hand as he walked off the mound with one out in the seventh inning and a 3-0 lead.

Mauer, the designated hitter because of a sore heel, had an RBI single off Boone Logan in the eighth.

Liriano (4-2) struck out the side in the first despite giving up singles to three of the first four batters, with Rodriguez coming through with the RBI hit.

Thames was hit on the left foot with a pitch by Liriano leading off the second and limped down to first, but wasn't slowed by any lingering pain. He scored from second on Jeter's single to right, sliding into home ahead of Michael Cuddyer's strong throw.

Liriano struck out the side again in third and gave up eight singles and one double. He has yielded at least three runs in each of his three May starts after allowing three runs total in four April outings.

"With Frankie on the mound you know you're going to get a chance to win and I thought he gave us a chance," Gardenhire said.

Thames singled in a run in the sixth, Liriano's last. Liriano struck out seven and walked none.

Gardner made a diving catch on Denard Span's liner leading off the game. Pettitte caught Brendan Harris' drive with a runner on third and two out in the second. Swisher made a diving catch on Drew Butera's liner to right with one out in the third, the replay eliciting loud "Oooohs" from the crowd of 46,347.

And who had the better catch in the outfield?

"I'll say Swisher's," Gardner said. "That's what he says."

Span had a sliding grab of his own in the eighth.

NOTES: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said DH-1B Nick Johnson could be out three more weeks if the cortisone shot for Johnson's injured right hand works. If Johnson needs surgery he could be out another four to six weeks after the operation. ... The Yankees will push back Javier Vazquez's start to Friday against the Mets. Girardi said it's because of a rainout and he wanted to keep the rest of his starters on schedule. Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia will start against Boston, Monday and Tuesday. ... Liriano has not allowed a regular-season homer in 48 1-3 innings, second to Texas' C.J. Wilson (51 1-3 innings) among starters.