MINNEAPOLIS -- The New York Yankees remember how difficult it was to dig out of an 11-19 start and win the AL East last year.
Stuck in the cellar again when Sunday began, Jason Giambi and Co. want to make sure that another slow start doesn't have them scrambling at the end of another season.
Giambi hit two long home runs and the Yankees beat Minnesota 9-3 Sunday to avoid their first three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins since 1991.
"We could have easily got swept after the way they beat us last night," Giambi said, referring to the Twins' ninth-inning comeback victory against Mariano Rivera on Saturday. "You don't want to fall so far behind again."
Chien-Ming Wang pitched seven strong innings and Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez also homered for the Yankees, who dropped the first two games of the series before flexing their muscles to end the Twins' five-game winning streak.
"We don't want to be in that situation again," Rodriguez said of last year. "We realize that was way too big a hole and it was a miracle we won the division."
Just as in his last start, Brad Radke (2-1) avoided the first-inning problems that have plagued him in recent seasons, but ran into trouble in the second.
After a leadoff single by Rodriguez, Giambi hit a deep drive to dead center that traveled an estimated 451 feet and gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Hideki Matsui doubled and scored on a single by Cano, and just like in his last start against Oakland, Radke trailed 3-0 after two.
Cano's first homer of the season, an opposite-field shot that just reached the seats inside the foul pole in left, and an RBI double by Gary Sheffield made it 5-0 in the fifth.
The Twins cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom half when Shannon Stewart doubled in Lew Ford. Matsui charged in on the ball, but it got past him, allowing Juan Castro to score as well.
But Giambi led off the sixth with a towering homer to the upper deck in right that looked like it was going to hit the roof. It was his 31st career multihomer game and first since Aug. 29, 2005, at Seattle.
"I made a couple mistakes and they beat me today," Radke said. "I felt pretty good out there. I just made a couple mistakes."
With Wang (1-0) controlling an improved Twins offense, that was more than enough. Wang scattered seven hits, allowed just one earned run and struck out a career-high eight to give the Yankees the quality start they needed after Jaret Wright lasted just three-plus innings Saturday.
"Wang was terrific," manager Joe Torre said. "He just couldn't have been better for us than he was."
The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the seventh, two on Rodriguez's third homer of the season, and Wang retired six in a row after Stewart's RBI double. It was Rodriguez's 432nd career homer, moving him past Cal Ripken Jr. into sole possession of 36th place on the career list.
Luis Rodriguez had two hits and an RBI for the Twins, who had come from behind to win in each of the previous five games and were looking to sweep the Yankees in a series at least three games long for the first time since September 1991.
There would be no comeback in this one, thanks to Wang's steady pitching and the New York offense, which tied a season high with 17 hits after being held in check for the first two games of the series. Sheffield, Rodriguez, Giambi, and Johnny Damon all had three hits.
Radke surrendered three homers, pushing his season total to seven in three starts, and gave up six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
"We made a good stand here against some very good baseball teams," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the team's three victories against Oakland and two against New York following a 1-5 start against Toronto and Cleveland. "We're .500 against four teams that are going to be contending for the playoffs. That's not bad from the way we started."
After the game, the Twins optioned OF Jason Kubel to Triple-A Rochester and purchased the contract of Ruben Sierra. ... Giambi went 3-for-4, his first three-hit game of the season. ... Damon was the DH on Sunday and Bernie Williams played CF for the first time this season. ... The Yankees play two games in Toronto starting Tuesday before heading home for the weekend. ... The Twins host the Angels for three games before a 10-day road trip.