Mauer catches a ride as Twins win again

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 18, 2011 - 8:07 AM

He wasted no time fueling the team's surge, delivering an RBI single in his first at-bat after a two-month absence, and other returnees chipped in as well.

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Joe Mauer didn't want to be a distraction. With the Twins finally winning again, he just wanted to be a part of it.

On Friday night, in his first game since April 12, that exactly what Mauer was -- a part of it.

Several Twins did what they have been doing throughout their recent surge, as Mauer, Danny Valencia and Glen Perkins made their first big contributions in a while.

The Twins grabbed a five-run first inning lead and held on through some tense late moments for a 6-5 interleague victory over the Padres at Target Field.

"I was so excited to get out there with my teammates and get a win," said Mauer, who went 1-for-4 as the Twins improved to 12-2 in their past 14 games.

At 29-39, they are within 10 games of .500 for the first time since May 10 and eight games out of first place for the first time since April 29.

A sellout crowd gave Mauer a standing ovation before his first at-bat, and the three-time batting champion delivered a run-scoring single up the middle.

"I was trying to concentrate so hard on the at-bat, but [the ovation] meant a lot," Mauer said. "I put in a lot of hard work to get back here and to be able to get that support, it was awesome."

Michael Cuddyer followed with a run-scoring double -- his 10th RBI in the past seven games -- and Valencia smashed a three-run homer off Padres lefthander Clayton Richard.

Valencia was batting .152 in June and hadn't homered since May 21.

"It's been awhile," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He clicked on one. He needs to get going. We've all seen the struggles. He picks up a few hits here and there, but driving in runs is what it's all about. He did that last year for us; we're going to need that as we go along."

The Twins still led 6-2 in the seventh inning, when Alex Burnett replaced starting pitcher Brian Duensing.

Burnett recorded two quick outs before giving up two singles. Then Ryan Ludwick drilled a three-run homer, trimming Minnesota's lead to one.

Perkins entered in the eighth for his first appearance since he strained an oblique muscle four weeks ago. The Padres put a runner on second base with one out, but Perkins blew fastballs by Nick Hundley and Alberto Gonzalez, ending that threat.

"It was like I never left," said Perkins, who lowered his ERA to 1.52. "No, it was good to get back in there and get thrown into the fire. I like that. And I had felt good, so there's no reason I felt like I wouldn't be successful."

Matt Capps pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 10th save in 15 chances and second in as many days.

Mauer's return was the big story, but the Twins didn't change their recent style. Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla reached to put runners on first and second for Mauer's first at-bat, and Revere didn't hesitate trying to steal third base.

He would have been safe, but he overslid the bag.

"Gardy didn't mind it," Revere said. "One of those freak accidents. He just said to slow down when I get to the bag. I said, 'All right, I don't know if I can.' "

Mauer didn't mind Revere taking the chance.

"It was nice to see," Mauer said. "Benny can do a lot of things. We've got Lexi playing well. He had some great at-bats in front of me and allowed me to have some opportunities. I think it's pretty fun to watch them run around a little bit."

And after missing 57 games, Mauer enjoys watching it even more from the batter's box.

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