Freddy Garcia made it further than his last start and did not throw any wild pitches. His problem was the combination of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Carl Pavano.

All three played a key role in handing the Yankees a 7-3 loss against the Twins last night at the Stadium.

Mauer drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Morneau added a mammoth home run in the sixth and Pavano made the Yankee bats look impotent for most of the night.

“He seemed to get the ball down,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We seemed to hit balls hard, but all were on the ground.”


Garcia allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. But his night was a story of bad innings in the first and fifth. How he performed in between those frames allowed him to reach the sixth.

After throwing 30 pitches in a two-run, five-hit opening inning, Garcia cruised to the fifth by retiring 11 in a row with a one-run lead. He then lost the lead by allowing a go-ahead RBI double to Mauer.

“I was making good pitches, but a 0-2 pitch to Mauer -- I got to throw a
better pitch,” Garcia said. “At 0-2, I got to bounce the pitch. Bottom
line, I got to bounce it.”

Garcia’s outing marked the eighth time in 10 games the Yankees did not receive a quality start. Four of those have been by Garcia and Phil Hughes, who might be the early favorites to be replaced by Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte in the upcoming weeks.

Mauer is 15-for-34 lifetime off Garcia and added to that figure with a double in the first. Morneau, who is 8-for-32 off Garcia, had an RBI double in the first and then a long solo home run to center field in the fifth as Minnesota won for just sixth time in 34 regular-season visits to Yankee Stadium since 2002.

“They’re pretty good hitters,” Garcia said. “You got to make good pitches. They know how to hit. When you have a chance to put them away, you have to do it.”

While Morneau crushed Garcia’s first-pitch sinker, the Yankees hardly crushed anything thrown by Pavano. They scored their first two runs on consecutive solo home runs by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. They were the first Yankees to open a game with back-to-back home runs since Sept. 23, 2005 against the Blue Jays.

Pavano then retired 19 of the final 22 hitters by using a combination of sinking fastballs, split-fingered fastballs and changeup.

“It was just a bad game,” Nick Swisher said. “We just fired off early. We couldn’t get anything going.”

The closest the Yankees came to anything resembling a threat occurred with one out in the sixth as Robinson Cano walked and Teixeira singled off Morneau’s glove at first. The threat never went further as Swisher struck out on a changeup and Ibanez grounded the same pitch to second base.

“We started off well,” Jeter said. “After that, Carl settled down. He knows how to pitch, that’s the bottom line. He throws his off-speed pitches, his fastballs. He doesn’t throw too many balls over the middle of the plate. He’s the story of the game.”

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.

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