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Yankees 11, Twins 2

May 14, 1997

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Babe Ruth. Mickey Mantle. Tino Martinez.

In the storied history of Yankee sluggers, those three stand alone in one obscure yet impressive category. Through the first 40 games of a season, they are the only players to hit 15 home runs.

Martinez joined that exclusive group Tuesday night with a two-run shot in a seven-run sixth inning that carried New York to an 11-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

That continued the torrid hitting pace Martinez set from the start of spring training, and it put him alongside Ruth (four times) and Mantle (1956) as the only Yankees to start a season so quickly.

``I don’t think any accomplishment over 40 games is anything to get excited about,″ said Martinez, who went 3-for-4 to boost his average to .366. ``I’m not thinking about those types of things.″

Martinez’s 415-foot homer off reliever Kevin Jarvis in the decisive sixth gave him 45 RBIs, moving him two ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. for the major league lead and within one of Griffey for the most homers in the majors.

What’s it been like watching such an impressive hitting display?

``Fun,″ said Joe Girardi, who added a two-run double in the sixth. ``Nothing (he does) really ever amazes you. He’s been hot since about Feb. 15. I mean, he was on fire in spring training, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.″

Martinez isn’t alone.

Bernie Williams added a 440-foot, tiebreaking solo homer in the fifth, the third straight game in which he has homered, as the Yankees matched a season high with their third straight win and moved six games over .500 for the first time.

The defending World Series champions have won 17 of their last 23, while the Twins lost for the 16th time in 20 games.

David Cone (5-2) allowed a season-high 10 hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking one as he won his fifth straight start for the first time in three years.

``We’ve been playing really good baseball,″ Martinez said. ``Bernie, (Derek) Jeter, (Wade) Boggs, those guys are always on base, giving me chances to drive in runs. And with Cecil (Fielder) and Paul O’Neill hitting the ball really good behind me, I get a lot of good pitches to hit.″

After snapping a nine-game home losing streak Monday, the Twins stranded 10 runners and got a horrible performance from their bullpen. Despite control trouble, starter Rich Robertson (3-2) gave up just four runs in five-plus innings.

Jarvis gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning, and Mike Trombley and Eddie Guardado gave up one apiece.

Chuck Knoblauch was the only bright spot for Minnesota, going 4-for-4 with an RBI.

``We had chances early,″ Denny Hocking said. ``It was close until the sixth, then it got away.″

Robertson once again struggled with his control. He allowed five hits while walking six and striking out three, the fifth time in seven starts his walks have equaled or surpassed his strikeouts.

Still, he seemed to have overcome his wildness when, with two outs and the game tied 2-2 in the fifth, Williams drove his seventh homer deep to right-center field.

``Robertson had a struggle, but he got away with it,″ manager Tom Kelly said.

Robertson gave way to Jarvis after walking O’Neill to open the sixth, and that’s when the Yankees teed off.

Mariano Duncan hit a run-scoring single and Girardi followed with a two-run double to make it 6-2. Jarvis struck out Tim Raines and Jeter, but Williams followed with an RBI single and Martinez finished Jarvis with his homer to right-center.

O’Neill made it 10-2 with a run-scoring single off Trombley. Duncan added an RBI single in the eighth.

``I don’t think it’s just Bernie and Tino,″ Jeter said of New York’s surge. ``A lot of people are starting to swing the bat, and our pitching’s doing well. So anytime you get good pitching and you hit, you’re going to win.″

Notes: The Yankees promoted outfielder Scott Pose from Columbus to replace second baseman Pat Kelly, who went on the 15-day disabled list Monday. ... Robertson went to a full count on eight of the first 14 hitters he faced, walking three and striking out three in those situations. ... After a slow start, Knoblauch is 17-for-48 (.354) with nine RBIs in his last 13 games. He has raised his average to .283, and his 19 RBIs tie Terry Steinbach for the team lead. ... The Yankees have outhomered their opponents 24-3 in the last 13 games.

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