PITTSBURGH -- Joe Mauer picked the right moment for his first home run of the season, ripping a solo shot to right field in the 13th inning and sending the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Wednesday night.
The Twins jumped out to a three-run lead in the first but let the Pirates creep back into the game before trading zeros for three extra frames. Mauer finally broke through against Pirates lefty Antonio Bastardo, lining an 0-1 pitch into the right-field stands, his first homer since Aug. 17.
"High slider, hung up in the air, up over the plate probably," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just wasn't sharp."
"It was a big home run obviously and we hadn't seen that from him yet," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Much has been said about it but I'm hoping his timing on his next one is as good as this one."
After giving up 10 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings Thursday, Twins starter Mike Pelfrey returned to form. The big right-hander held Pittsburgh to one run and struck out five over six innings, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00 through his first eight starts of the season.
Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke surrendered three runs in the first inning, all of them on Torii Hunter's bases-clearing double, but bounced back with five scoreless innings after that. The Bucs battled back in the seventh, when Jose Tabata delivered a pinch-hit RBI single, and Andrew McCutchen tied the game in the eighth, ripping a solo shot to center field.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's pitching staff held the line. After the fourth inning, the Bucs only allowed one hit, an 11th-inning single, and Minnesota didn't get a runner past first base until Mauer touched them all in the 13th.
"We got into a good rhythm on the mound for a very long period of time out there," Hurdle said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Torii clears 'em in the first: With the bases loaded with one out in the first, Hunter smacked a three-run double to right field. It gave the Twins an early 3-0 lead a day after they jumped out to a 7-0 lead after two innings in Tuesday's 8-5 win.
No slouch: Pirates left fielder Starling Marte was essentially responsible for one of the Twins' eight runs on Tuesday, allowing a Mauer single to score three runs by not hurrying a throw back into the infield. Marte would not repeat that mistake, as he fired a laser to third base in the third inning Wednesday night, preventing Trevor Plouffe from taking third on a single by Hunter.
Tonkin gets big out: With Minnesota clinging to a one-run lead after left-hander Aaron Thompson gave up an RBI single to Tabata in the seventh, the Twins called on Michael Tonkin with two runners on to face Josh Harrison. Tonkin made a nice play on a grounder hit by Harrison to get out of the jam.
"That was big," Molitor said. "He made a really athletic play."
Tabata comes through: With one out in the seventh, Pedro Alvarez and Francisco Cervelli drew back-to-back walks. Hurdle called on pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez, whose ground ball put runners on the corners. After Hurdle sent out Gregory Polanco to pinch-hit, the Twins countered with Thompson. Out came Tabata, who lined a run-scoring single to center -- his second in as many days since getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis.
"Tough losses, man. Anytime you go into extra games and you lose in extras, it [stinks]. No need to hang our heads. We'll take tomorrow, a day off, and come back Friday back at work." -- Harrison, on the Pirates' 0-6 record in extra innings
"I was just waiting until we played the 13th to do it. I knew I hit it well. I was just hoping it was high enough with that high wall out there. I'm glad it came in a big spot." -- Mauer, who broke a career-long 76-game and 286 at-bat homerless streak.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pelfrey went 2-for-2 at the plate, becoming just the seventh Twins pitcher with two hits in a game since the advent of Interleague Play. It was the second career two-hit game for Pelfrey, who entered the game a career .098 hitter (26-for-265) during his seven years with the Mets.
McCutchen's home run was his 61st at PNC Park, tying him with Jason Bay for the ballpark's all-time lead.
Twins: The Twins have a day off on Thursday before heading to Chicago for a three-game series against the White Sox starting Friday night at 7:05 p.m. CT at U.S. Cellular Field. Right-hander Phil Hughes is set to start in the series opener.
Pirates: The Pirates will take Thursday off before returning to the field Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET, kicking off a three-game series against the Mets at PNC Park. Right-hander Gerrit Cole will get the start for Pittsburgh opposite rookie righty Noah Syndergaard.