NEW YORK -- There has been a smaller margin of error for the Yankees' pitching staff in this offensively challenged first half, and as Phil Hughes remarked, it often has felt like one or two mistakes can wind up deciding the outcome of any game.
Hughes was again the victim of that on Saturday, as one of his best starts of the season was spoiled by -- what else? -- the long ball. Hughes tied a career high with 10 strikeouts but surrendered three home runs as the Twins defeated the Yankees, 4-1, on Military Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium.
"It's been frustrating," Hughes said. "I guess the one thing I can say is, I've felt good with my stuff over the last three or four starts. After the All-Star break, that's something I can continue to build on."
With the Yanks sporting camouflage on their caps and uniform tops, Ryan Doumit lined a go-ahead solo home run off Hughes in the seventh inning and Pedro Florimon crushed a hanging slider for a two-run shot in the eighth, leading the Twins to their first victory over the Yankees in six tries this year.
Hughes also served up a second-inning Trevor Plouffe homer that dented the bullpen mound beyond the wall in left-center field. All three of the homers came on 2-2 pitches with one out, spoiling an afternoon in which Hughes said he flashed his sharpest slider of the season.
"I thought it was some of the better stuff that he had all year long," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "His offspeed was really effective. He had the 10 strikeouts. I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well except for a few mistakes."
Those lapses proved costly for Hughes, who limited the Twins to five hits over 7 1/3 innings on Saturday.
His 18 homers allowed this season are second to only CC Sabathia (20) on the Yankees' staff. A bigger ballpark would help that, but Hughes said the cozy Bronx dimensions weren't to blame on Saturday; two of the three homers would have left other stadiums as well.
"As a straight fastball, four-seam guy, if I miss up in the zone, a lot of times it's hard-hit fly balls," Hughes said. "That's just part of who I am, so I have to really concentrate on locating and not leaving balls over the middle of the plate."
Girardi noted that the Yankees have taken advantage of their short right-field porch plenty over the years. It just hasn't happened much lately, as the Yankees scraped to get a run in seven innings off Twins righty Samuel Deduno.
Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay said that despite the club's offensive struggles this year, he believes the lineup, as currently comprised, is capable of more damage.
"It's just a matter of finding a way to get things going," Overbay said. "We're definitely not going to hit the home runs, and we can't wait for the three-run homer and all that stuff, but we can do other things. We have that kind of team in here. It's a matter of going out and doing it."
Deduno settled in after being touched for two hits in the first inning, producing that run. Ichiro Suzuki stroked a one-out double and scored as Robinson Cano whistled an RBI single off Deduno, his former World Baseball Classic teammate on the Dominican Republic squad, and into center field.
The promising start led to little against Deduno, who scattered six hits in the effort. The Yankees had runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings against the righty but were unable to bring the run home.
"He's got some funky movement on his ball," Yankees catcher Austin Romine said. "His ball cuts, and he mixed in his curveball to keep us off balance."
A baserunning mishap by Zoilo Almonte in the fourth cost New York a run. Girardi said he gave Almonte the green light to steal with two outs, and when the Twins threw down to second, Almonte should have gotten caught in a rundown long enough for Vernon Wells to walk home from third base.
Instead, Almonte was tagged out to end the inning. The Yanks left two men on in the fifth, and wasted Travis Hafner's one-out, pinch-hit double in the seventh, as Deduno recovered to induce two groundouts.
"You come into that part of the lineup, he's the guy you want out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was in control pretty much the whole game."
The Yankees even caught a break in the late innings, to no avail. Gardenhire was ejected by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza in the top of the eighth, arguing a call in which Clete Thomas was ruled out for interference at first base.
Casey Fien blanked New York in the eighth and little-used All-Star closer Glen Perkins had little opposition in recording the last three outs in the ninth, logging his 21st save as the Twins won for just the second time in their last 14 games.
"I think we can be better," Girardi said. "I think we can be more consistent, but I don't think it's an offense that's going to average six runs a game. That's pretty hard to do for any offense, bottom line, but I do think we can be more consistent."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.