Big fourth inning pushes Twins past Yankees, 6-1
Phelps pitched well in the first three innings, striking out six Twins and getting himself out of a pair of jams, but his luck ran out in the fourth. A single, a double and a walk loaded the bases -- and catcher Drew Butera unloaded them with a three-run double to give the Twins a 3-0 edge. Pedro Florimon then singled, and Aaron Hicks hit a sac fly to make it 4-0 Minnesota.
Phelps got Brian Dozier to ground out to end his night, but lefty Juan Cedeno -- who was making his return after being part of the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic squad -- came on and surrendered a walk and an RBI single to Chris Parmelee (with the run charged to Phelps) to push the lead to 5-0 Twins.
The Yankees would get one back in the bottom of the inning, as Robinson Cano singled and Kevin Youkilis walked before Travis Hafner hit a fly ball that left fielder Joe Benson misjudged for a run-scoring two-base error, but that was it. Twins starter Liam Hendriks allowed just one other baserunne -- a one-out walk to Hafner in the second inning, in his four frames, and Cole De Vries walked one and hit a batter in his four nearly-flawless innings.
Minnesota got their final run in the eighth on Eduardo Escobar's RBI single off Boone Logan, and Pedro Hernandez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish it out.
Offensively, the Yankees managed just those five baserunners total, with Cano -- who also made his return from the WBC -- getting the only hit and Hafner being the only one to reach twice.
On the mound, the Yankees did see strong outings from four of their relievers: Mariano Rivera worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth by striking out the side, David Robertson struck out two in his scoreless sixth, David Aardsma threw very few pitches in a perfect seventh, and Preston Claiborne retired the side after issuing a leadoff walk in the ninth.
The loss drops the Yankees to 10-16 in Grapefruit League play, but they'll be back at it right away, traveling to Fort Myers for the back-end of a home-and-home series with the Twins on Friday afternoon.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES