MINNEAPOLIS -- Even with Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup for the first time in more than six weeks, the New York Yankees still found themselves needing an offensive spark in the later innings against Minnesota.
Manager Joe Girardi wasn't surprised in the least that Curtis Granderson was the one to provide it.
Granderson flew around the bases for an inside-the-park home run to help the New York Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, A-Rod's first game back since July 7.
"Nothing he does really surprises me anymore," Girardi said. "You just kind of expect him to do something great every day."
Rodriguez went 0 for 5 in the cleanup spot, but Mark Teixeira followed Granderson's seventh-inning speed show with a more conventional homer. Ivan Nova pitched seven shutout innings as the Yanks took three of four from the Twins.
Nova (13-4) allowed five hits and struck out five to rebound from a poor start in Kansas City and Mariano Rivera picked up his 33rd save in 38 tries.
Joe Mauer had three hits for the Twins, who lost starter Nick Blackburn in the second inning because of a strained right forearm. Phil Dumatrait (1-2) got the loss in two innings of relief.
In a breakout season in the Bronx, Granderson has launched 34 of his 35 homers into the seats to help the Yankees weather Rodriguez's long absence.
The powerful Yankees offense left the bases loaded twice in the first five innings and seemed to be slogging through the final game of a seven-day road trip when Granderson stepped to the plate against Jose Mijares in the seventh.
His drive hit high off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field and got away from both center fielder Ben Revere and right fielder Jason Kubel.
"I've never seen a ball hit up into that area," Kubel said. "I just thought it was like every other ball, 99 percent of the time it just drops down and hits the fence."
Instead it kicked away and Granderson motored around the bases and easily beat the throw home for his third career inside-the-park home run.
"The main thing is that each day I try to do everything I can, at any point, whether it be a sac bunt, a hit-and-run, try to steal a base, drive the baseball to help this team win a ballgame," Granderson said.
Rodriguez missed 38 games after having surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. While the Yanks went 25-13 in his absence, they're elated to have him back to help with their duel with the Red Sox for the AL East title.
Girardi is expected to shuffle Rodriguez between third base and DH as he works his way back into the everyday grind.
"His timing looked a little off," Girardi said. "But I asked him in the eighth inning how he was feeling and he said he feels great. To me that's the important thing. His timing is going to come with playing."