ARLINGTON, TEXAS - It was a rare powerful moment from the Twins' über-catcher -- a jolt from Joltin' Joe Mauer.
Mauer got hold of a Colby Lewis pitch in the first inning Wednesday night and gave it a 379-foot ride into the right field seats. The Twins jumped out to an early lead, piled on late and got a strong start by Brian Duensing in a 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
After being pulverized 20-6 on Monday -- and raising questions if they might be sellers before Sunday's nonwaiver trade deadline -- the Twins have bounced back to win two games and can win the four-game series Thursday night when Scott Baker starts. Wednesday's victory also moved them within six games of AL Central-leading Detroit.
Jason Kubel was 3-for-5, and his three-run double in the ninth inning put the game away. Michael Cuddyer was 2-for-4 with his team-high 15th homer -- also coming off Lewis (10-8) -- and two RBI.
Second baseman Alexi Casilla pulled a muscle in his right leg running out a double in the ninth. He will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam Thursday.
A Mauer home run can't be shrugged off. He hit nine all of last season -- after hitting a career-high 28 in 2009. He entered Wednesday's game homerless this season. The blast was Mauer's first since Sept. 15, 2010, when he went deep off Gavin Floyd in Chicago.
That's 203 plate appearances between Mauer home runs.
"It felt good to get the lead and get on the board right away,'' Mauer said. "I hit it well. It was just a fastball down and in, maybe a little cutter. With [Lewis], he throws a lot of cutters, so I was looking in a little bit. And I was able to put a good swing on it."
Mauer has only one home run at home since Target Field opened last year, but he appears to have solved the ballpark here.
Mauer entered the night a career .245 hitter at Rangers Ballpark, his lowest career batting average in any American League road ballpark. He was 2-for-4 on Wednesday, adding an RBI single in the fifth.
It's turned into a nice little surge for Mauer, who had the game-winning hit in the ninth inning Tuesday as the Twins came back from four runs down to beat the Rangers 9-8. He capped off a comeback on Tuesday and kicked off a victory on Wednesday.
More impressively, Mauer got hold of a pitch in the inside corner of the plate and pulled it to right field, a rarity for Mauer and his left field-intensive swing.
"He had a smile from ear-to-ear, I know that," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He actually went up there and, I don't know if it was a cutter and [Lewis] tried to come in and didn't get it in where he wanted to, he clicked on it pretty good. Made a good sound for us."
After Mauer missed 58 games because of leg weakness following offseason knee surgery, Gardenhire believed his three-time batting champion would need some time to get his swing going.
Mauer was batting .186 June 17 but has since batted .346. Gardenhire believed Mauer wouldn't need long to start driving the ball, and proved that Wednesday.
"It was well struck,'' said Duensing (8-8), who went 6 2/3 innings, the longest stint by a Twins starter since Carl Pavano pitched seven innings on July 16.
"Better late than never. Hopefully, there is more to come.''