NEW YORK — The fading Minnesota Twins will have to try to reinsert themselves into the AL wild-card race without Aaron Hicks. The center fielder is headed back to the disabled list.
Hicks strained his left hamstring trying to run out a grounder in the sixth inning of the Twins' 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday, their fifth defeat in seven days.
"I'm not sure if it's going to take two weeks, hopefully not, but considering the circumstances, I don't think he's going to be ready to play for a little while," manager Paul Molitor said.
The Twins will call up top prospect Byron Buxton from Triple-A Rochester before their game against Baltimore on Tuesday.
Hicks had been playing well since he returned from the DL on July 4, batting .293 with five doubles, two triples, seven homers and 22 RBIs.
He was injured during a three-run sixth against Nathan Eovaldi (13-2), who held Minnesota without a baserunner until Chris Hermann hit a one-out flare over the head of third baseman Chris Headley to start the rally.
Shane Robinson followed with a single before Hicks grounded out to third in a close play.
"You don't really see a starter throwing a 100 mph, 101, 102, and just coming out here trying to face something like that is difficult," Hermann said. "Luckily we had that one inning, I was able to break up the no-no and kind of got something started there. He did a heck of a job."
The Twins had little success against Eovaldi's fastball. In the sixth, though, they were able to take advantage of his secondary pitches.
After Hicks got out, Brian Dozier walked — following a 102 mph fastball — on a splitter in the dirt. Joe Mauer laced an 87 mph slider into right-center for two runs. Trevor Plouffe drove in another with a chopper to third for an infield single on a splitter.
"That split combination with the velocity was too much for us to handle today," Molitor said.
The Yankees didn't have much more success against Ervin Santana (2-4), who has struggled mightily against New York — except for rookie Greg Bird.
He hit a pair of soaring two-out, two-run drives for his first major league homers, helping send Minnesota two games under. .500 at 59-61 for the first time since April 30. The Twins are now 3 ½ games back for the second wild card.
"I feel good. Everything was good," said Santana, who entered with a 5.66 ERA in eight starts. "Changeup was better, slider was better, fastball location was better, so everything was good."
Santana hasn't beaten the Yankees in 11 starts since Aug. 1, 2008.
On Wednesday, he allowed seven hits and four runs in 7 2-3 innings.
In seven electric innings, Eovaldi gave up four hits and struck out eight. He walked three in improving to 8-0 in his last 11 starts since June 20.
Dellin Betances pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save — first since July 1 — for the AL East leaders, winners of six of seven.
Called up from Triple-A on Thursday, Bird has been in the lineup since replacing Mark Teixeira on the field Monday night after the switch-hitter fouled a ball off his right shin.
Bird sent an 0-1 pitch in in the fourth into the second deck in right field after Carlos Beltran squirted a hit off the glove of diving second baseman Dozier with two outs.
He then put New York back in front in the sixth, this time after Beltran was walked by Santana with two outs. Bird sent a drive into the Yankees bullpen for a 4-3 lead. The 38,086 fans demanded a curtain call and he obliged with a quick wave of the helmet from the top step of the dugout.
"His composure. You feel like he's been here already six months," Headley said of Bird. "He's very calm."
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins returned to Minneapolis to have an MRI on his ailing neck. He was given a cortisone shot and will join the team in Baltimore, where he will be reevaluated.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (forearm strain) will make a second rehab start, Friday for a yet undetermined minor league team.
Twins: Tyler Duffy (1-1) makes his third career start, at Baltimore. He took a no-hitter into the sixth in his previous start, his first win. He
Yankees: RHP Ivan Nova (5-4) is set for his 10th start since returning from Tommy John surgery in June. He's won four of his last five outings, allowing three runs or fewer four times. Josh Tomlin (0-1) is set to start for Cleveland.