Mauer, Hughes carry Twins past Orioles to salvage series finale

  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 8:06 AM

Phil Hughes tied the AL lead with his 15th victory, while Joe Mauer drove in four runs.

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– The Twins might be on their way to their fourth 90-loss season in a row, but they might be able to take away this from 2014:

They appear to have a legitimate No. 1 starter for the first time in years in Phil Hughes.

The righthander moved into a tie for the American League lead with his 15th victory, thanks in large part to Joe Mauer’s four RBI, and the Twins salvaged the final game of a four-game series against the American East-leading Orioles with a 6-4 victory Monday at Camden Yards.

Hughes pitched eight strong innings, giving up three unearned runs, and Mauer delivered a tiebreaking two-run single in the eighth. The Twins held on from there, with Glen Perkins earning his 33rd save as the Twins ended their seven-game road trip 2-5.

Hughes (15-9) won for the fourth time in five starts to match Detroit’s Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer and the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver with 15 victories.

“I feel like I got away with a lot of mistakes today,” Hughes said. “But I had good enough stuff to overcome that and was able to make some pitches. That was kind of the story.”

Hughes pitched at least seven innings for the fifth consecutive start. In his six starts since the beginning of August he is 5-1 with a 1.64 ERA, bouncing back from a six-start stretch over June and July in which he had a 6.34 ERA and opponents hit .352 against him.

“He’s been huge,” Mauer said. “Whenever we give him the ball, we feel like we have a real good chance of winning.”

When Mauer produces the way he did Monday, the Twins have a real good chance of winning, too. It was his 11th career game with at least three hits and four RBI; the Twins are 10-1 in those games. He also had three hits and four RBI in a 6-1 victory over the Orioles on May 3 at Target Field.

Mauer’s first two RBI Monday came on a two-run triple in the sixth inning off Orioles rookie Kevin Gausman (7-7), before he scored on Kennys Vargas’ sacrifice fly. Baltimore came back in the seventh after Trevor Plouffe threw away what might have been an inning-ending double play, the Twins third baseman’s 11th error of the year. Two batters later, Nick Hundley lifted a three-run homer off Hughes to left to tie the score at 3-3.

The tie didn’t last long, though. Gausman issued a leadoff walk to Jordan Schafer in the eighth, and an error by third baseman Jimmy Paredes on Danny Santana’s grounder put runners on second and third with no outs.

Gausman then struck out Brian Dozier, but Mauer — swinging at the first pitch from reliever Andrew Miller — singled to left to score Schafer and Santana. Mauer took second on the throw home and scored on Vargas’ single on Miller’s next pitch.

“We’re 1-0 in September, and we need Joe to pick us up,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Let’s have a good September here. That’s kind of our battle cry, and it’s going to be led by him, no doubt.”

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