MINNEAPOLIS -- When the New York Yankees arrived here from Baltimore in the wee hours of Monday morning, they had just been swept by the Orioles, David Phelps was a couple of days removed from a horrendous pitching performance, and both Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner were being nominated for retirement by a lot of Yankees fans.
But as they leave the Twin Cities on Thursday night, the Yankees are riding the crest of a four-game winning streak, Phelps came back with a solid performance to earn himself a win, and Wells and Hafner were among the hitting stars in the Yankees' 9-5 over the Minnesota Twins.
"I'm sure they feel a lot better about themselves," manager Joe Girardi said. "Baltimore was frustrating because we really had a chance to win a couple of games there and we weren't able to do it. We hadn't won a series in a while, so I think it was pretty important."
In fact, the Yankees had not won a series since taking two of three from the Mariners in Seattle between June 6-9, and had not swept one since taking three games from the Indians on the first weekend of June. After going 0-for-Baltimore, they had dipped perilously close to the .500 mark, but now they are a comfortable seven games over .500 again, even if they remain in third place, six games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Wells, getting a rare start these days against a right-handed starter (Kyle Gibson), got going early with a first-inning single down the left-field line that drove in two runs, and added an RBI double in the third. After hitting just .133 in June, with no homers and just seven RBIs, Wells is now 4-for-6 with three RBIs in his two July starts.
"I think my swings have been better," Wells said. "The things that [hitting coach Kevin] Long and I are working on, we'll keep working on. He's critiquing each and every swing and so far it comes back with a thumbs-up. The biggest thing is, you get results, you're happy."
Hafner, who hit .174 in June, had three hits Thursday, including two doubles, and scored twice. It was his first three-hit game since April 30.
"My last six or seven at-bats," Hafner said, "is probably about as good as I've felt in a long time."
As for Phelps, he cruised for six innings, allowing just a solo home run to Justin Morneau in the fourth, before faltering in the seventh. After allowing nine earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Orioles last Friday, Phelps went 6 1/3 on Thursday, allowing four runs, two of which were inherited baserunners allowed to score by Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan.
"It was huge," Phelps (6-5) said of his bounce-back win. "Obviously the last start, I didn't give us a chance to win. Obviously, I didn't want to go six-and-a-third and four runs, but it's a big league win, no matter how you look at it."
Now, the Yankees need a big-league bounce back against the Orioles, their rivals for second-place right now in the AL East and a young, hungry team out to prove its 2012 season was no fluke.
"We're going home for a long stretch and we're bringing some momentum with us," Phelps said. "It would have been real easy to just take what happened in Baltimore and carry it into here, but we’ve got a good group of guys and we put it behind us and won four games in a row."