MINNEAPOLIS -- The Yankees left New York last week for a 10-game road trip, clearly aware their streak of 13 straight playoff appearances was in jeopardy.
After going 3-7, they're stumbling back to the Bronx in even worse shape.
"It's pretty late for us," said Johnny Damon, who went 0-for-4 with a pair of popups in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Minnesota.
Delmon Young hit a three-run homer for the second straight day for the Twins. Meanwhile, the Yankees were sloppy in the field, outpitched and outhit -- problems that kept cropping up in their swing through Texas, Anaheim and the Metrodome.
"We have to play better. I know we played some pretty good teams, but we're going to have to beat the good teams if we're going to be able to get to the playoffs," Damon said.
Kevin Slowey (9-8) smoothly worked the corners of the strike zone over six strong innings for Minnesota, surrendering three hits, one run and one walk against a lineup missing Derek Jeter. Joe Nathan sealed the victory in the ninth with his 32nd save, and the Yankees went 17-for-80 with runners in scoring position on the trip.
While praising Slowey, Damon gave the perfect summary of his team's struggles during this injury-filled, inconsistent season.
"It seemed like he had an easy time with us, and nobody should have an easy time with us," Damon said.
The Twins and their overworked bullpen, threatening to negatively affect their own pennant chase, held on. After a run scored on a wild pitch by Dennys Reyes in the eighth, Jesse Crain came in and retired Alex Rodriguez on a flyout with men on first and third.
That dropped Rodriguez's average with two outs and runners in scoring position to .204 in 49 at-bats.
"There are just so many hitters that can go up there and hit the ball out of the ballpark," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said, "we just tried to get through it."
The Twins were reeling from Rodriguez's tiebreaking solo homer in the 12th inning of Tuesday night's 9-6 win by New York. But with catcher Joe Mauer back in the lineup after night off -- he had a stiff neck -- the Yankees failed to build any momentum.
Story of their season.
"There's a lot of professionals in here. Everybody's still up. I think we're going to be fine," said starter Darrell Rasner, who pitched five decent innings except for Young's big hit.
Mauer walked to start the fourth and Justin Morneau followed with a bouncer to third base, and Robinson Cano drew an error for leaving the base to catch Rodriguez's throw. One out later, Young sent a ball soaring over the right-field wall for his seventh homer and a 3-1 lead against Rasner (5-9).
Rodriguez hit a two-out double and Jason Giambi drove him in with a single, the first time this year Slowey gave up a run in the first inning. He had gone a team-record 18 straight starts without allowing one.
Slowey quickly settled in, though, and retired 12 in a row until Wilson Betemit, subbing for Jeter at shortstop, hit a two-out single in the fifth. Bobby Abreu drew a one-out walk in the sixth, but Rodriguez was retired on a popup and Abreu was caught stealing to end the inning.
"They're a great team. These are the guys that we grew up watching. I grew up watching Derek Jeter in the World Series and Alex Rodriguez in the Kingdome," Slowey said. "You certainly kind of take a step back coming into the series and say, 'All right, this is another game, but it is a little more special."'
Home plate umpire Mike Winters was hit on the chin by Brian Buscher's foul ball in the bottom of the inning and left the game. Angel Campos moved from first base to replace him after a 10-minute delay. With 91 pitches, Slowey's afternoon was over.
Job well done against the Yankees, who were literally falling apart at the seams. Giambi was charged with an error at first base, in the first inning when a low throw from Betemit went through the webbing in his glove. He got a different mitt after the miscue.
The play was harmless, but fitting.
"Chance to win a series after an emotional win last night and you don't do it, it's not good," manager Joe Girardi said.
- Jeter hurt the instep of his foot when he fouled a ball off of it the night before. Girardi said he was very sore, but available to pinch hit and should be able to return to the lineup on Friday.
- Slowey faced 94 consecutive batters without issuing a walk until Abreu's in the sixth.
- The Twins are 25-8 at home since June 1.
- Girardi said RHPs Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano will both make at least one more rehab start in the minors Sunday. "There's still work to be done," Girardi said. Dan Giese has been slated to start next Tuesday, but his sixth-inning relief appearance ended after 15 pitches due to stiffness in his right shoulder.