MINNEAPOLIS -- After watching the Minnesota Twins squander chance after chance with runners in scoring position early in the game on Thursday, Didi Gregorius made them pay with one swing of the bat.
Gregorius hit a three-run homer to break a tie game in the top of the seventh inning to help the New York Yankees to a 4-1 win at Target Field.
The Yankees shortstop known more for his glove, hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Fernando Abad over the right-field fence for his sixth homer of the season, giving the Yankees' lights-out bullpen all it would need down the stretch.
"He threw me a fastball right down the middle and I hit a home run," Gregorius said. (I was looking for) a pitch in the zone that I can drive. Not looking to hit a home run but it happened. At least drive one run in. That's what you always look for in that situation."
New York snapped a four-game losing streak and continued its dominance over Minnesota. The Yankees have won six straight against Minnesota dating back to last season and are 70-27 versus the Twins since 2002, a .722 winning percentage that is the highest against any opponent during that span.
For Abad, it was his first home run allowed in 22 2/3 innings this season.
"We just wanted to give him a chance to come in and face that part of the lineup," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "You're hoping for a strikeout but even a walk wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. He tried to get ahead and (Gregorius) was ready."
C.C. Sabathia (5-4) earned the victory, allowing one run on six hits and three walks in six innings, striking out seven. Sabathia stranded nine Minnesota runners through five innings, allowing the Yankees offense time to get going.
"Just trying to mix some pitches. My command was off all over the place, two-seamer tonight, had a lot of runners on, threw a lot of pitches, but was able to make some pitches," Sabathia said. "(Brian McCann) caught a good game and had some pitches when we needed it."
Sabathia has now allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last seven starts and lowered his season ERA to 2.20.
"He's the guy that I've always said finds a way, and he competes and he wants the ball and he takes the pressure off the other guys," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's been really good."
Relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller worked a scoreless inning apiece to bridge the gap to closer Aroldis Chapman, who secured his 12th save.
Kyle Gibson (0-4) was brilliant in the early going, but allowed five-straight hitters to reach to start the sixth inning. The Yankees got just one run out of it however, as Gibson got a pop out to second and a double-play grounder to escape the jam after loading the bases with nobody out.
Abad entered and immediately surrendered the homer to Gregorius.
"It's been amazing, watching him come over here and kind of in a tough spot, taking over for (Jeter)," Sabathia said. "He's played fantastic defense and his bat has really woken up. That was a huge hit for us tonight."
Gibson was charged with the loss, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings pitched.
"It felt like I was in control most of the game and executing pitches really well," Gibson said. "Then both those innings, threw a few too many non-competitive pitches in those at-bats and didn't attack well enough."
The Twins threatened early against Sabathia, advancing a runner into scoring position in each of the first two innings. In the second, Minnesota had runners on second and third with one out, but the crafty left-hander got Byron Buxton to strike out and retired Robbie Grossman on a lineout with the bases loaded to end the threat.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
NOTES: Twins LHP Glen Perkins will undergo season-ending surgery on the labrum in his throwing shoulder. Perkins, who hasn't pitched since April 10 and has played in just two games this season, will likely be back in time for next season. ... Yankees OF Carlos Beltran was back in the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a sore left knee. Beltran played right field and batted third. ... Twins OF Danny Santana will be activated off the 15-day disabled list after completing a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Rochester. Santana has been out since May 30 with a strained left hamstring. ... New York and Minnesota will play the second contest of the four-game series Friday night at Target Field. The Yankees will send right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-2, 3.08 ERA) to the mound against Twins' left-hander Pat Dean (1-2, 4.17 ERA).