Twins hope Mauer, Vargas HRs signal turnaround
In midst of rough June, DH ties game in eighth before first baseman walks Twins off
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's no secret that Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas have been struggling this month.
Entering Thursday's game against the Cardinals, Mauer was hitting just .179 with three extra-base hits in June, while Vargas was hitting just .130 with nothing but singles this month. But they both came up big when it mattered most, as Mauer hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning, before Vargas delivered a walk-off solo blast with two outs in the ninth to lift the Twins to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals at Target Field.
"It was a couple big moments for guys looking for something to hopefully get jump-started," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We've talked about Joe, and I don't see the same as the outside does, because I'm around him all the time. But it was a big hit for him to have in that situation. And for Kennys to win a game, the goat to a hero couldn't have been more appropriate in that scenario today."
Vargas had hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh.
It was just the third homer of the year for Mauer, but they've all come in important situations, as he hit a go-ahead homer in extra innings in Pittsburgh on May 20 and a game-tying three-run homer against the Brewers on June 5. It also came against a hard-throwing lefty reliever in Kevin Siegrist, whose 3-2 fastball caught too much of the plate.
"I try to make them count when I do hit them," Mauer said with a smile. "It was exciting. It was nice to come up with that in that time of the game to tie the game and give us a chance to win."
Vargas, meanwhile, hadn't homered since being recalled from Triple-A on June 8, but was able to come through with his first career walk-off with his solo shot off right-hander Carlos Villanueva on a 1-1 curveball. Vargas credited Molitor with telling him to relax and have fun before the game, and he said hitting coach Tom Brunansky also told him to look for something offspeed from Villanueva.
"Before the at-bat, I talked to Bruno and he told me what [Villanueva] was going to throw me and what to wait for," Vargas said. "I saw the offspeed and hit it hard for a home run."
The win wouldn't have been possible without a bounce-back performance from right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who gave up just one run over eight innings after surrendering eight runs in his previous start. He kept the Twins in the game and helped them win back-to-back contests over the Cardinals after losing both games in St. Louis.
"We feel like we can play with anybody on any given day," Mauer said. "This series proved that. These guys [the Cardinals] have the best record, but all four games, we were in them and had a chance to win. So I think we know that in here and have to just keep playing hard."