By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
CLEVELAND — Joe Mauer has hit plenty of singles over the years, and in limited duty, Trevor Plouffe has delivered his share of home runs.
On Saturday night, each racked up three RBI by doing something the Twins are used to seeing — and more — as Minnesota defeated Cleveland, 7-4, at Progressive Field.
Mauer hit an RBI single in the first inning and added a two-run homer in the seventh. Plouffe connected for his sixth home run, breaking a 4-4 tie in the sixth inning, but his two-out, two-run single in the first inning was a big moment, too.
“(Plouffe’s) been getting the home run ball, but he hasn’t been getting those other big hits like that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That was huge.”
The Twins won for the fourth time in five games by leaning on their offense and their bullpen, as starting pitcher P.J. Walters had his first rough outing of the season.
The Twins jumped to a 4-0, first-inning lead against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (2-3), but Walters let Cleveland chip away gradually. Gardenhire pulled the righthander after Michael Brantley tied it 4-4 with an RBI single in the fifth.
Brian Duensing (1-2) came in and stranded two runners that inning and wound up recording six outs, as the Twins rebuilt their lead on the home runs by Plouffe and Mauer. The Twins rank last in the American League with 38 home runs, but those were two big ones.
Plouffe has six home runs in 102 at-bats, but he’s batting just .176 with 11 RBI.
“I feel like I’m getting more into a hitter’s rhythm,” Plouffe said. “One hundred at-bats is 100 at-bats. It’s quite a few. It’s about time I get going. I’m not happy with where I’m at. And I’m not happy where the team is at. But we’re headed in the right direction, and I think I’m headed in the right direction, as well.”
Mauer finished 3-for-5, raising his average to .298, up from .270 on May 15. He also grounded into two double plays, bringing his major league-leading total to 14, but with the rest of his production, it’s tough to complain.
He now has three home runs, matching his total from last year, when he was limited to 82 games because of injuries.
Asked if he feels like his swing is where he wants it, Mauer said, “It’s been a little different this year for me. Once you get it, you try to hold onto it as long as you can. (Saturday) was a good night, and hopefully it can carry into (Sunday).”
Mauer took a foul ball off his catcher’s mask last Monday, and Gardenhire let him be the designated hitter for the next three games before putting him back behind the plate on Saturday.
In the eighth inning, Johnny Damon hit a dribbler in front of the plate, and Mauer sprung up quickly to get the out at first.
“That’s why I said it’s really nice to give him these days off, where his legs are feeling good and he’s bouncing around out there,” Gardenhire said. “Now I’ll probably put him and at first base or DH (on Sunday). We’ll see how we do it.”