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Updated: August 18th, 2010 10:24pm
Mauer's first blast at Target Field helps lift Twins past White Sox

Mauer's first blast at Target Field helps lift Twins past White Sox

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Wednesday night's game didn't provide quite the drama of Tuesday's walk-off festivities, but the Minnesota Twins used a similar formula -- take an early lead, give it away, then take it back -- en route to another 7-6 victory over the White Sox.

Of course, there was one added ingredient this time around -- a 350-foot home run by Joe Mauer that bounced off the top of the left field fence and into the seats for his first Target-Field blast. The home run was his eighth of the season, and it temporarily cut Chicago's lead to 5-4, but most importantly it got Mauer off the hot seat.

"It felt good," said Mauer, who finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs, raising his batting line to .335/.407/.496. "I've hit a lot of balls out that way that have died, so it's good to get one over the wall for sure.

"I hit it pretty good. I've hit a lot of balls like that this year that didn't make it, but I was kind of surprised last night how well it flew."

Coming off a season in which Mauer hit 28 home runs in just five months -- including 16 bombs at the Metrodome -- it was somewhat perplexing to see him go through such a long drought at home. The reigning MVP even admitted to tinkering with his approach at the plate.

"It messes with you, mentally," Mauer said. "You try to do different things that are out of what makes you do well. So yeah, I fell into that trap a little bit."

But ultimately, considering the Twins (70-50) are now a season-high 20 games over .500, thanks in large part to Mauer's scintillating second half, hitting 20 home runs really isn't a high priority for the catcher, or for his manager.

"I don't get on Joe about hitting, I don't care what it is," Ron Gardenhire said. "I hit .230... Believe me, he can hit home runs. He's blasted a few balls here that have been held up that should be home runs, but Joe's fine.

"He's tied with Repko."

One inning after Mauer's blast, Michael Cuddyer led off the sixth with a double down the left field line. After Jim Thome drew a walk, Delmon Young roped a double to left to tie the game 5-5. Danny Valencia then reached safely on a bouncer to shortstop when Alexei Ramirez unsuccessfully tried gunning Thome down at home. The next batter, J.J. Hardy, put the Twins up 7-5 with a sac fly to the warning track in left field that scored Young.

That's all the scoring Minnesota would need, even with a disappointing outing by Francisco Liriano, who gave up five earned runs on six hits and four walks in just five innings.

Jeff Manship and Jesse Crain combined for three scoreless innings of relief, and Matt Capps allowed a run in the ninth before locking down his 31st save of the season.

For the second straight night, the Twins jumped out to an early lead as well, this time in the first inning courtesy of an RBI double by Mauer and an RBI single by Michael Cuddyer.

The White Sox immediately answered in the top of the second inning when Andruw Jones smoked a three-run homer into the bullpen to make it 3-2.

Jones' home run was the first off Liriano in 96 1/3 innings, which was the second longest homerless streak by a Twins pitcher since -- believe it or not -- Bert Blyleven, who went 99 innings between 1974-1975.

White Sox starter Gavin Floyd went 5 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and three walks. This is the second time in less than a week he has been roughed up by the Twins.

RHP Carl Pavano (15-7, 3.27) is scheduled to face LHP Mark Buerhle (11-9, 4.05) in Thursday's series finale, as the Twins look for a sweep.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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