- Associated Press - Sunday, October 10, 2010

NEW YORK | Mariano Rivera got the last out, sealing yet another October triumph. Jorge Posada trotted out to mound, and the Yankees came out of the dugout in a businesslike manner to shake each other hands.

No crazy celebration, at least not yet.

Postseason step No. 1 accomplished. Two more to go before the New York Yankees‘ big party can start.

And yet another quick October exit for the Minnesota Twins.

Phil Hughes pitched seven shutout innings, Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher homered and the Yankees beat the Twins 6-1 Saturday night to complete yet another three-game sweep of Minnesota and return to the AL championship series.

“We have a a long way to go,” Derek Jeter said. “We gained a lot of confidence, the way we did last year in the playoffs.”

Even newcomers sense only part of the mission is complete.

“That’s three down,” said Thames, whose fourth-inning homer blew open the game, “but we’ve got eight more games to go.”

For starters, though, the Yankees sped past the Twins with ease. It’s not just a pair of playoff victories for New York against Minnesota, but four in the last decade — all in the first round.

“This is not much fun at all, to come up here, being knocked out, knowing your season is over with again after three games in the playoffs,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve had that a few times.”

New York begins the ALCS on Friday at Texas or Tampa Bay. With the short first-round series, the defending World Series champions put ace CC Sabathia in position to start the opener.

A banged-up veteran team appears to have benefited from October off-days. The wild-card Yankees rebounded from a late-season fade in which they lost 17 of their final 26.

“Once you get to the postseason, it’s like another season,” said Curtis Granderson, who hit .455 in his first playoff series for New York. “You’ve just got to get across the finish line.”

Robinson Cano got New York started when he tripled off Brian Duensing in the second inning and scored on Posada’s single. Mark Teixeira added an RBI single in the third, and Thames made it 4-0 with his first career postseason homer, a two-run drive over the right-field scoreboard.

“I didn’t get the job done when it counted,” said Duensing, who allowed five runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings.

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