Mauer's second straight four-hit game lifts Twins
Star achieves first such feat since 2006; Swarzak splendid in relief
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire has managed Joe Mauer throughout his entire 10-year career but admits the five-time All-Star never ceases to amaze him.
Mauer is off to another torrid start this season, and he continued his recent tear with his second straight four-hit night, along with three RBIs, to help lead the Twins to an 8-6 win over the Angels on Tuesday at Target Field.
Mauer, who had four hits in Monday's win against the Angels, picked up right where he left off, as he singled in his first three at-bats before adding an RBI single in the seventh after lining out sharply in the fifth. It marked the second time in his career he had back-to-back four-hit games, with the last occasion coming June 26-27, 2006, against the Dodgers.
"I've seen him hit his whole career, so we've seen him do this," Gardenhire said. "We keep saying it's incredible to do this at this level, and it is. He can just rack up those hits, and it's incredible, and that'll never change. He's just an incredible hitter."
Mauer, who is hitting .386 with two homers, five doubles and seven RBIs so far this season, said he feels locked in at the plate, and the key has been hitting with two strikes. Of his 22 hits this season, 16 have come with two strikes.
"It's early in the season, but I'm having good at-bats and laying off pitches to get good pitches to hit," said Mauer, who is in the midst of a nine-game hit streak. "So I'll try to keep doing that."
Mauer helped key a three-run second inning against Angels left-hander Jason Vargas with a two-run single after Pedro Florimon brought home the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
The Angels, though, came back with three runs of their own against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey in the third. Peter Bourjos plated a run with an RBI groundout before Mike Trout and Albert Pujols added back-to-back RBI singles.
The Twins went on top again in the third on a sacrifice fly from Wilkin Ramirez -- who exited in the fifth with a back contusion after getting hit by a pickoff throw at first base following a single -- but it was short-lived, as the Angels scored on an RBI groundout from Andrew Romine in the fourth.
But Minnesota took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth, when Justin Morneau laced an RBI single after back-to-back singles from Brian Dozier and Mauer with one out.
"They did a good job of making me work," said Vargas, who gave up five runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. "I just got to do a better job of not letting those innings get going like that and keep going."
Dozier helped the Twins add two insurance runs against reliever Jerome Williams with a bases-loaded two-run single in the fifth. Mauer later provided another insurance run with an RBI single with two outs in the seventh.
It made a winner out of Pelfrey, who otherwise struggled, as he gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
"The first two innings were good, but it was a grind the last three," Pelfrey said. "They did a good job working the count and hit a lot of balls hard. I had to battle, and luckily I made enough pitches to get through five."
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was impressive in long relief, charged with two unearned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Closer Glen Perkins navigated the ninth for his third save, sealed by a stellar, heads-up play by Florimon to end the game, as Pujols' grounder went off Trevor Plouffe at third before Florimon snatched the ricochet and threw Pujols out at first.
"Swarzak was fantastic," Gardenhire said. "He ate up a lot of innings and probably could've finished it if he hadn't missed a play there. Perk came in, and it got a little exciting, but he got that last out there. The old combo play."