MINNEAPOLIS — Gary Sanchez was struggling since coming off the disabled list, and the New York Yankees were off to a so-so September start.
Facing the Minnesota Twins seems to be a cure-all.
Sanchez had three hits, including a mammoth home run, J.A. Happ tossed six shutout innings and the Yankees continued their mastery of the Twins with a 7-2 win on Monday night.
Could his first three-hit game since April 16 be a turning point for the catcher hitting .189?
"I've hit the ball very hard all season and I haven't got the results I wanted. If this is what it takes for me to find a good streak here or a good positive streak, yeah, why not," Sanchez said through an interpreter.
New York has beaten Minnesota nine straight times, including last year's wild card game, outscoring the Twins 66-23. The Yankees are 20-4 in the teams' meetings since July 25, 2015.
The Yankees, 5-4 in the season's final month, increased their lead over idle Oakland to three games for the first AL wild-card spot.
Happ (16-6) allowed six hits and struck out three. Acquired from Toronto on July 26, the left-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in six of eight starts for New York, going 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
"I ran into a couple outings before I came over where I really wasn't getting strike one as much as I needed to," he said. "Tonight, I felt like I was ahead in the count a lot and kind of forced them to be aggressive and swing."
Kyle Gibson (7-13) allowed four hits and one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He was one batter away from tossing six shutout innings before Sanchez crushed low 2-2 fastball 460 feet into the third deck in left field.
"We've talked before about a guy's sweet spot, and some guys like the ball down and that's probably on the fringe of where he likes the ball the most," Gibson said.
Before the bomb, Sanchez was 3 for 29 since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 1.
"You always feel like he's a guy that can get it rolling, and when he does, he's, from a talent standpoint, one of those guys that can carry a club offensively," manager Aaron Boone said.
New York's first eight batters reached base in a six-run seventh. Miguel Andujar had a two-run double and later scored on a double by Giancarlo Stanton, who had been in a 3-for-35 slump. Didi Gregorius doubled home Stanton.
New York was 5 for 17 with runners in scoring position after going 4 for 35 in its previous six games.
"Finally, a lot of really good at-bats to kind of break that game open. It was something I feel like we needed and glad that a lot of guys had a hand in it," Boone said.
JUDGE GETS HIS CUTS
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge took on-field batting practice for the first time since fracturing his right wrist on July 26.
The session included home runs to multiple fields by the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year.
"It went really well; another big step for him to get out on the field," Boone said.
After the game, Judge refused to put a timeline on his return.
"I really don't want to put myself in a box by setting a date and then not making it. . I just need to keep moving forward until the day I get out there."
Twins left fielder Johnny Field made a sliding grab in the fifth to rob Andujar of a hit and save two runs. Third baseman Andujar returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, snaring a sharp liner by Field.
Yankees: 1B Luke Voit has been dealing with back stiffness for a couple of days and wants to play through it, but Greg Bird got the start.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano missed his fifth straight game with lower left leg issues — including a sore knee that he sustained sliding into second base last Tuesday. ... 1B Tyler Austin went through hitting drills and took batting practice but missed his fourth straight game with a stiff back.
To provide extra rest for Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, New York's Sonny Gray (10-8, 4.96) is scheduled for a spot start on Tuesday. Removed from the rotation in early August, Gray tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his last spot start, on Aug. 25 in Baltimore. Minnesota will send RHP Tyler Duffey (1-2, 9.00) to the mound for his first start of the season.
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