Twins 6, Orioles 4

With each hard-hit single the opposite way, with every double to

the gap, with every highlight-reel defensive play behind the plate,

Joe Mauer pushes the nightmare of last season further and further

behind him.

The Minnesota Twins All-Star is getting cheered again by his

home fans. He’s in the race for the American League batting title

again. And, most tellingly, he’s making the game look easy

again.

Mauer had three hits and an RBI and the Minnesota Twins bullpen

pitched 4 2-3 innings of scoreless relief in a 6-4 victory over the

Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

”It’s kind of one of those, `Oh well, it’s Joe again’ type

things,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. ”We’ve seen that before.

He’s won a lot of batting titles doing that same thing. He can

flat-out hit. The bottom line is the guy can hit.”

Mauer had two singles, a double and a walk to improve his

batting average to .333, second in the AL behind the Angels’ Mike

Trout. Ryan Doumit added two hits and two RBIs for the Twins, who

have taken the first two games of the series against the slumping

Orioles.

Adam Jones hit a three-run homer for Baltimore, but Zach Britton

gave up four runs on six hits with a career-high six walks in four

innings as the O’s dropped their third in a row to fall 10 games

behind the Yankees in the AL East.

Jones was at the plate with a runner on in the ninth, but Jared

Burton struck him out for his third save.

Alex Burnett (3-2) pitched an inning for the win and Luis Ayala

(2-3) gave up two runs on five hits in 2 2-3 innings for the

loss.

The game was tied with two outs in the bottom of the seventh

when Jamey Carroll and Denard Span reached on back-to-back singles.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy’s errant throw got past Mark Reynolds at first

base on a play that was ruled a hit for Span and an error that

allowed Carroll to advance to third.

With new life, Ben Revere’s bloop single gave the Twins a 5-4

lead and Mauer followed with a single that tailed just past a

diving Hardy’s glove to make it 6-4.

It’s been quite a bounce-back season for Mauer, who suffered

through numerous ailments last season in the first of an

eight-year, $184 million contract. The injuries contributed to a

career-worst season and turned many of his hometown fans against

him.

He hit.287 with three homers and 30 RBIs in 82 games last

season, but has been the model of durability this year. He played

in his 82nd game on Tuesday night and has mixed his time this

season between catcher, first base and DH while resuming his role

as one of the game’s best hitters. He also made a brilliant

defensive play in the sixth, pouncing out of his crouch and laying

out to snare a popped-up bunt attempt from Ryan Flaherty.

”It’s great,” Mauer said. ”I love playing here. I love

putting on this uniform. The most important thing is getting the

win. If I can get some hits, that’s great.”

Jeff Gray, Tyler Robertson, Burnett and Glen Perkins combined to

get the ball to Burton after a surprising pitching duel between

Britton and Samuel Deduno fizzled quickly in the fifth.

”I think the bullpen, everybody is going pretty well,” said

Robertson, who struck out Thome in the sixth. ”It’s a confident

group. We all pull for each other.”

Britton was making his season debut after a long road of

recovery from shoulder problems. He had platelet-rich plasma

therapy in March and didn’t start pitching in the minor leagues

until being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on June 6.

Britton gave up a run on a double by Jamey Carroll that tied the

game in the fourth inning and was knocked out of the game in the

fifth after back-to-back walks loaded the bases with nobody out.

Doumit followed with a two-run single off of Luis Ayala and Brian

Dozier’s RBI single tied the game at 4.

Deduno threw a pickoff attempt away in the first inning, then

bounced a breaking ball for a wild pitch to allow Nick Markakis to

score.

The right-hander really settled down next three innings but

didn’t make it out of the fifth. He walked Markakis and Jim Thome

and served up a three-run blast to Jones, his 21st of the season,

that made it 4-1.

Deduno gave up four runs – three earned – on six hits with five

walks and five strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings.

NOTES: The Orioles had a web gem of their own in the eighth when

Reynolds tracked a foul ball back toward the seats and made the

catch as he tumbled into the stands to retire Dozier. … Mauer’s

single in the seventh gave him 1,198 hits for his career, moving

him past Chuck Knoblauch for eighth in franchise history. …

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said they wouldn’t rush 2B Brian

Roberts’ decision on whether to have surgery to repair a groin

injury that put the oft-injured Roberts on the DL on July 3. ”It’s

a pretty serious decision,” Showalter said. ”Surgery takes him

out for the year.” … Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe extended his

hitting streak to 15 games with an infield single in the second.

… Twins RHP Carl Pavano (shoulder) continues to show improvement

while playing long toss. He threw on Tuesday and plans to again on

Thursday and Saturday before throwing off of a mound on Sunday, if

all goes well. … The Twins will go to LHP Francisco Liriano (3-8,

4.93) on Wednesday night in the third gamer of the series. Liriano

has been superb since rejoining the rotation and struck out 15 in

his previous start. He’ll face Orioles RHP Tommy Hunter (3-4,

6.11), who is being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make the

start.