Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This was not your typical Yankees series against the friendly American League Central rival Twins. New York could only manage a series split this time after two stunning losses to open the four-game set.

Minnesota made very clear this series would be different with nine first-inning runs on Thursday. They showed they were serious with an eighth inning comeback on Friday. New York’s pitching then took the wheel en route to two dominant wins.

But even so, this series was a wakeup call for the Yankees. The season’s young, but the hard work hasn’t even started yet.

Some takeaways:

Gerrit Cole, ace pitcher. No more talk of Cole not being a real big-game ace pitcher. The big righty turned in another gem with a two-hit shutout on Sunday, lowering his ERA to 0.95 on the year. He was fully locked in and straight out-aced Pablo Lopez.

Cole is bound to have a rough start at some point and when he does, the #YankeesTwitter meltdown will be borderline hilarious. He’s still their best pitcher by a wide margin and Carlos Rodon hasn’t even made his Yankees debut yet! In the meantime, count on the Cole Train to keep bringing home some quality starts.

Not your father’s Twins. Let’s be frank. The Twins’ offensive outburst on Thursday was because Jhony Brito is a rookie pitcher who had nothing working that night. Nestor Cortes’ two mistakes on Friday turned into solo home runs and Minnesota took advantage of Clay Holmes having a bad night. The Yankees are still very much the better team on paper.

Except the Twins have a legitimate star in Carlos Correa now and a healthy Byron Buxton. The lineup is only going to get healthier over the course of the season once Joey Gallo and Jorge Polanco return from injuries. Their pitching staff flies under the radar too, so the series at Target Field next week should be an interesting rematch.

The calm before the storm? The Yankees needed the win and series split on Sunday for reasons other than pride. After Monday’s off day, New York will play 16 games in 16 days against five teams: the Angels, Blue Jays, Twins again, Rangers, and finally the Guardians. Nine games at home, seven on the road.

These games are more important for the Yankees than people realize. Giancarlo Stanton’s strained hamstring leaves the lineup without one of its most reliable power bats. A returning Josh Donaldson and Harrison Bader should rebalance the offense, but replacing Stanton is near-impossible.

The next couple of weeks won’t decide the season for the Yankees, but this team can’t crumble without Stanton like it did last year. Nobody’s saying it, but this Twins series might have prefaced New York’s first big test of 2023.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.