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Dozier's three-run blast lifts Twins above .500

Fifth-inning homer helps Deduno secure his first victory of 2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- It is easy to forget the Twins were off to a decent start in 2013 after disastrous campaigns in 2011 and 2012.

The Twins were 18-17 after their first 35 games. They then lost 10 straight and were never able to recover en route to a second straight season with exactly 96 losses.

But this year's version of the Twins looks improved in the early going, and they showed it again Saturday night by clinching their third straight series victory. Samuel Deduno threw six strong innings, and Brian Dozier added to his impressive homer total with a three-run blast in the fifth to help the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Mariners at Target Field.

The win also helped the Twins climb to 21-20, marking the latest the Twins had been above .500 since they finished the 2010 season with a 94-68 record.

"We want to keep riding this little wave," said Dozier, who is the only player in the Majors in double digits in homers and stolen bases. "Everything is going good. The pitching is doing great, and we're playing good defense. And we're driving people in. So everything is clicking, and it's a lot of fun."

The pitching was solid again on Saturday night, as Deduno turned in a second straight quality start in his third start of the year after he opened the season in the bullpen. He gave up two runs on just two hits and two walks over six innings with four strikeouts to get his first win of the year.

"My fastball was pretty good," said Deduno, who has a 3.53 ERA. "I was able to get ahead in the count and then use my breaking ball. The weather warmed up a little bit, so my curveball was pretty good."

The Mariners scored both their runs against Deduno in the third, when James Jones laced an RBI triple down the right-field line and scored on a sacrifice fly from Michael Saunders. Deduno was lifted after 95 pitches over six innings, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the team remained cautious with him after he ended last season on the shelf with arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

"Deduno was very good for us," Gardenhire said. "We debated putting him back out there for the seventh, but we all know the pitch count for him. So we wanted to protect him because he hasn't started many games."

The runs against Deduno gave the Mariners an early lead after the Twins had scored in the opening inning against left-hander Roenis Elias. Dozier started that rally with a leadoff single before coming around to score on a two-out double from Kurt Suzuki, who was batting cleanup for the first time since 2010.

The Twins took the lead for good in the fifth on a three-run shot from Dozier on an 0-1 curveball from Elias. It was Dozier's team-leading 11th homer and his second in as many games.

"The pitch was actually down in the zone," Dozier said. "It's a lot easier to hit with runners in scoring position, especially with a runner at third and less than two outs. You're green light and ready to fire at anything over the plate."

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino called it a good pitch from Elias, and he even checked the video to see the location of the pitch, especially after Dozier hammered a high fastball for a homer in Friday's 5-4 win.

"One night we threw him a ball that felt like it was neck level, and he stays on top of it and hits it out," Zunino said. "The next night you throw one down, and he was able to drop the head and elevate it. Sometimes when guys are seeing the ball well, you just have to tip your cap to them."

Left-hander Brian Duensing relieved Deduno in the seventh, and he was able to get out of a jam with runners on first and third with one out when pinch-hitter Stefen Romero grounded into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.

Right-hander Jared Burton gave up a solo shot to Saunders in the eighth to make it a one-run game. But closer Glen Perkins tossed a scoreless ninth to pick up his 12th save and preserve the victory for Deduno.

"The bullpen did a decent job," Gardenhire said. "Deuce was able to get out of it, and Burty got his outs. And then Perk. It was his third day in a row, so it was a big save and a nice win. The first couple days here were good, and we got a chance to do something big tomorrow."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
Read More: Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier, Samuel Deduno