Mauer shows some power; Correia earns first victory of 2014

Joe Mauer’s three-run homer helped Kevin Correia earn his first victory and end the Twins’ four-game skid.

The Twins’ most accomplished starting pitcher in 2013 hadn’t accomplished much during the opening weeks of this season. Kevin Correia has been one of the reasons behind what was expected to be a team strength becoming a team concern.

Correia’s 0-for-April ended with his worst outing of the young season, when he gave up seven runs to Detroit. That must have been the kick in the pants he needed, as Correia is now in the win column. He shut down Baltimore for seven innings while Joe Mauer helped the Twins offense break out of a mini-slump with a three-run homer in a 6-1 victory at Target Field on Saturday.

The Twins ended their four-game losing streak behind Correia’s first victory since Sept. 1, 2013, a span of nine starts.

Now the rest of the rotation can attempt to build off what has transpired the first two games of this series. Though the Twins lost 3-0 Friday night, Ricky Nolasco pitched a complete game to save a bullpen depleted by Thursday’s doubleheader with the Dodgers. Correia followed with seven strong innings, holding the Orioles to one run on five hits and no walks and three strikeouts.

Correia actually spoke with Nolasco twice before Saturday’s game. One meeting took place in the video room. Another took place in the hot tub (don’t judge, that’s how some players get their muscles loose).

“I was able to talk to him and was able to get a good game plan on what I needed to do to pitch deep into the game,” Correia said.

The only Orioles run came in the second inning, after a curveball that struck out Adam Jones bounced to the backstop. Jones reached first safely, stole second and scored on J.J. Hardy’s single. But Correia (1-3) shined from there, retiring the final eight batters he faced after Nick Markakis’ one-out double in the fifth inning.

Correia lowered his ERA to 6.09 with the outing. Think that’s a little high? He entered with it at 7.33. But he threw 17 first-pitch strikes to the first 24 batters he faced to set the tone. He got his usual share of ground-ball outs, but when the Orioles did elevate a pitch, it was hit to center fielder Sam Fuld, who recorded eight putouts. Casey Fien pitched the eighth and Jared Burton the ninth to wrap up the victory.

“After Kevin’s last outing it was a good bounce-back for him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Twins backed him with a first-inning RBI double by Trevor Plouffe and a third-inning homer by Brian Dozier off Orioles lefthander Wei-Yin Chen (3-2), Dozier’s eighth homer of the season. But through four innings, they were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, after going 0-for-11 Friday and 2-for-13 in Game 2 Thursday.

Mauer broke through by foiling the Orioles’ shift with a fifth-inning RBI single to score Dozier from second. Two innings later, he came up with runners at the corners and blasted a homer to left off righthander Brad Brach. Mauer is batting .375 over his past 10 games.

“We got on base. Joe hit a huge three-run homer,” Dozier said. “All of that aside — everyone from one through nine swung the bat really good today — a heck of a pitching performance by Kevin. We really needed that.”

Perhaps more meetings should take place in the hot tub.

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