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Hughes is sharp as Yankees romp

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Girardi has been searching for some answers for his jumbled starting rotation for weeks, hoping someone would emerge to back CC Sabathia.

With a month and a half to go before the postseason, the old Phil Hughes is showing signs of coming back, just in time.

Hughes allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 innings and Russell Martin hit two home runs to lead the New York Yankees to an 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

"He's pitched really well and it seems like he's getting stronger, too, as we go," Girardi said. "He got off to a slow start, and then he got hurt, and he's rebounded pretty since coming off the DL."

Hughes (4-4) gave up one run, walked three and struck out two in his longest outing of the season. Martin hit a solo homer in the third and a two-run shot in the sixth, his fourth career multihomer game.

Mark Teixeira added two hits and three RBIs for the first-place Yankees.

Hughes is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his last four starts, and the 25-year-old appears to be finding his stride after a tough start to the season. He missed much of the first three months with right shoulder inflammation that sapped his velocity.

The fastball has shown more zip, but it's his confidence with his changeup and curveball that is making the difference now.

"I can't look back at the beginning of the year," said Hughes, who won 18 games last year. "That's over and done with. I have to make the most of what I have left."

Kevin Slowey (0-1) gave up six runs on nine hits with four strikeouts for the Twins.

Trevor Plouffe hit a solo homer in the first inning, but Hughes put the Twins on ice the rest of the way.

The right-hander retired 14 straight hitters at one point and continued to mix all of his pitches effectively, something Girardi has been imploring him to do of late.

"If you have weapons, to me there's no reason to keep them in your back pocket," Girardi said before the game. "The best thing is to go out and use them."

Girardi has mixed and match a slew of veterans behind Sabathia to get the Yankees to this point, including Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova.

Slowly but surely, Hughes has been improving each time out and making a push for postseason consideration.

"It's not even my focus, playoffs or the next rotation around or who is going to be the guy left out," Hughes said. "I'm happy with the way the last few starts have gone and that's really all I think about."

Hughes built on his confidence against one of the weakest lineups in baseball.

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