MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Twins looking for a spark, down by a run with two runners on base in the seventh, Joe Mauer was brought in off the bench to pinch-hit against reliever Louis Coleman.
Mauer worked the count full, before ripping a fastball for a three-run homer to give the Twins a 5-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 5-4 win on Friday night at Target Field. It was Mauer's second career pinch-hit homer, and he came out to a curtain call from Twins fans after the go-ahead blast.
"It was a moment -- it's a career full of them," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You get a chance to use one of the best players in the last decade and a half in the game in a big situation, it is kind of a nice card to have in the deck. We just kind of rolled with it. It was one of those things where he stepped up and it was a nice delivery."
Mauer's homer was his fourth of the season, but he added to his impressive numbers with runners on base. He leads the Majors by hitting .429 (27-for-63) with runners in scoring position. It was a no-doubter, as it had an exit velocity of 102.9 mph and went a projected 423 feet to right field, per Statcast™.
"It's awesome," Mauer said. "I mean, just walking to the plate in that situation, tonight's crowd was awesome, great energy and I kind of had to step out a couple times just to take a couple deep breaths just to control the emotions a little bit. After it hit the seats, that was pretty awesome."
It was the third homer of the night for the Twins -- Eddie Rosario hit a solo shot off lefty Matthew Boyd in the sixth and Christopher Austin crushed a solo blast off Boyd in the seventh. Rosario hit his team-leading 21st of the year, while Austin's was the longest of the year by a Twins player, projected at 451 feet. It also had an exit velocity of 111.9 mph, which is the second-hardest hit homer by the Twins this year, only trailing Miguel Sano's 114.6-mph shot on April 25.
"Rosie kind of broke the ice and then Austin, that's what he's about," Molitor said. "You get a mistake, offspeed pitch, and he pulverized that."
The homers backed right-hander Kyle Gibson, who allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks over seven innings to get the win. Gibson was helped by four double plays, including one in each of the first three innings.
He gave up two runs in the fourth, keyed by a run-scoring wild pitch and an RBI single from Victor Martinez. He also surrendered a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Nicholas Castellanos but bounced back with a scoreless seventh before the Twins started their comeback.
"Just some poor execution in that inning," Gibson said. "Thankfully the offense there in the seventh did a great job. But I'll take four [double plays] every night. That's a team that's aggressive."
Reliever Matt Magill attempted to record his first save in the ninth, but surrendered a run on a two-out bloop RBI single from Ronny Rodriguez and walked Victor Reyes on 13 pitches. Lefty Taylor Rogers came in for the final out and recorded his first career save. It helped the Twins improve to 18-4 over their last 22 games at home.
"We had to scramble at the end," Molitor said. "Reyes gave Magill a heck of a battle there. And it was good to see Rog get a chance to get his first save."
Mauer's other pinch-hit homer came on May 25, 2009, against former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. It was also his 141st career homer with the Twins, which ties him with Michael Cuddyer for 11th on Minnesota's all-time list.
"I think it was in the Metrodome," Mauer said. "Yeah, that was pretty good. I think I hit a two-run homer and we were down three."
HE SAID IT
"That's about as professional an at-bat as you're going to see. That's Joe Mauer right there. He's a guy that gets a tough pitcher's pitch on 3-1, doesn't panic and gets the pitch he needs to hit and just put one of the best swings you've ever seen. That's him. When he gets the chance to do that, most of the time they walk him. When he gets a chance to do that, he capitalized and did a great job. Anybody that says he's not clutch, I don't know. Maybe I don't know the numbers. That guy's as clutch as it gets." -- Gibson, on Mauer
The Tigers will match up with the Twins for the third game of a four-game set on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT at Target Field. Right-hander Kohl Stewart (0-1, 6.23 ERA) will make his second career start and his second straight against Detroit. He gave up three runs over 4 1/3 innings in a loss at Comerica Park in his debut. The Tigers will start lefty Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 6.39 ERA).