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MIN@NYY: Morneau goes yard for a second time

NEW YORK -- After missing large chunks of time with concussion-like symptoms each of the last two years, it's fair to say the health of Justin Morneau was a question mark for the Twins heading into the season.

But so far, Morneau has shown positive signs that he's capable of returning to his previous form, and it was certainly evident against the Yankees on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

Morneau crushed two homers to lift the Twins to a 6-5 victory over the Yankees to help make a winner out of right-hander Jason Marquis in his first start of the season. It also gave the Twins two wins in New York for the first time in 11 seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire.

"It feels good," Morneau said. "It's been kind of a long road, but obviously it's not the end. Hopefully it's the start of being the hitter I'm used to being. It was one good day, but hopefully it's a start of more good days to come."

Morneau has been making steady progress this season, as he didn't miss any time due to injury during Spring Training and has sat out in just one of Minnesota's 12 games this year.

That came Tuesday, but it was related to an unfavorable matchup with CC Sabathia -- plus it was a day after he played first base for the first time this season and homered in a Twins win.

Morneau hasn't dealt with concussion-like issues since the offseason, and added his surgically repaired left wrist has been getting stronger with time.

It's shown up in his statistics, as he's already matched his homer total from last season and is hitting a healthy .279 with a .340 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage.

But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was hesitant to say Morneau is officially back to his old ways, because it's so early in the season.

"Let's give him some time here," Gardenhire said. "He's not playing first base every day like he wants to. I know one thing: he's back to enjoying being back to playing baseball. He's having a good time coming to the ballpark not having to deal with a lot of things he was dealing with all before."

Morneau's big day at the plate helped back Marquis, who was making his first start of the season. He made two tuneup starts with Double-A New Britain after missing two weeks of Spring Training to tend to his 7-year-old daughter, Reese, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in Staten Island, N.Y.

Marquis looked rusty as he surrendered three runs in the first inning. Six of the first seven batters he faced reached base, but he got Eric Chavez to ground into a double play with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Marquis settled down after that frame, allowing only one more run on a Robinson Cano homer, and he tossed five innings to pick up the win.

"I was just battling, with the speed of my delivery, with the emotions, everything that went on, really," said Marquis, who estimated he had more than 50 family and friends at the game, including his wife and three children. "It was my first start of the year. Everything gets magnified a little bit. You want to come out here and make a good impression on your teammates."

The Twins got out to an early lead against the Yankees for the third straight game, scoring four runs in the first against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

Jamey Carroll brought home Denard Span with a double before scoring on a double from Joe Mauer. Morneau then crushed his first homer of the game on a first-pitch fastball from Kuroda to bring home two more runs.

Morneau stayed hot with a single in the third, and later scored on Sean Burroughs' first hit of the season after a double from Chris Parmelee.

And in the fifth, Morneau was at it again, hitting his second homer of the night off Kuroda to chase the right-hander from the game.

Relievers Brian Duensing and Jared Burton combined to hold the Yankees scoreless over three innings before handing the ball off to closer Matt Capps in the ninth. Capps gave up a solo homer to Derek Jeter, but still came away with his third save of the year by getting Mark Teixeira to fly out to right to end the game.

"It just seemed like we were one hit short tonight from tying the game up or possibly going ahead," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And even look at the last inning -- Tex just missed his ball. I was pleased with our bats. I thought we continued to hit the ball hard, just didn't get the hit." Comments