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Yankees hope Tanaka can stop skid against Twins

( – Even Masahiro Tanaka has been unable to avoid the current slump the New York Yankees are in.

Tanaka will try to halt New York’s five-game slide and record his major league-leading 12th victory of the season on Thursday night when the Yankees visit the Twins to open a four-game set.

A 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday saw the Yankees get swept in a three-game set with the Rays and finish up a stretch of 15 straight against AL East opponents with a 6-9 record. Their ninth loss in 11 games also dropped the Yankees a game under .500 at 41-42.

New York is 4 1/2 games off the pace for first place in the division and will look to get on track during an 11-game road trip that leads into the All-Star break.

“We can’t change it. It’s over with now,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “Anything that has happened up until this point, you can forget about it. We need to play better. Talent doesn’t win games. We need to go out there and perform.”

Tanaka has performed all season long, but has still lost consecutive starts for the first time in his rookie campaign with the Yankees.

The right-hander is coming off a 2-1 complete-game loss to Boston on Saturday, giving up both runs on solo homers and striking out eight to just one walk. The second longball came on a ninth-inning fastball that the Red Sox’s Mike Napoli snuck over the wall in right center.

“He pitched as well as he could possibly pitch,” Yankees catcher Brian McCann said of Tanaka, who is 11-3 with a 2.10 earned run average on the year.

Despite the loss, Tanaka recorded a 16th quality start in as many outings to begin his major league career. That ties the record set by Montreal’s Steve Rogers in 1973 and also matched CC Sabathia (2010) for the longest streak of consecutive quality starts at any point in the season.

New York is 12-4 in Tanaka’s 16 starts and 29-38 in all other games. That includes a 3-1 win over Minnesota on May 31, with Tanaka allowing one unearned run over eight innings with nine strikeouts.

The Twins, though, took two of three in that set in the Bronx and have won four of the previous five meetings.

Phil Hughes gave Minnesota the series victory against his former club with a 7-2 victory on June 1, scattering two runs over eight innings of a 7-2 decision as the Twins scored six runs in the ninth inning.

It was the first time he was facing the club with who he spent his first seven seasons with.

“A little bit more nerves than usual, but thankfully I was throwing strikes early and was able to make some pitches,” Hughes said. “Obviously, it was a half-inning away from being a different story, but the guys rallied there in the ninth and it was a solid win for us.”

The right-handed Hughes has been solid for most of the season, but has given up five runs in three of his past five outings, going 2-3 in that span.

Hughes escaped with a 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox on June 22 despite yielding five runs over five innings, but then lost to Texas and its ace Yu Darvish 5-0 on Saturday. He again yielded five runs, this time on 11 hits and a walk in 7 2/3 innings.

The 28-year-old is 8-4 with a 3.58 ERA on the year and will attempt to help the Twins avoid an eighth loss in 10 games after the club dropped the rubber match of a three-game set with Kansas City 4-0 on Wednesday.

Minnesota was held to just four hits — two of them by Chris Parmelee — and played without first baseman Joe Mauer, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained oblique before the contest.

Mauer is hitting .271 in 76 games on the year with two homers and 28 RBI.

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