Mauer picks good time for first homer of 2015

Mauer picks good time for first homer of 2015

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Mauer picked an opportune time for his first homer of the year.

Mauer, who hadn't homered since Aug. 17, connected on a go-ahead solo blast in the 13th inning to lift the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Pirates on Wednesday night.

Mauer's homer off Pirates left-hander Antonio Bastardo broke a career-long homerless drought of 76 games and 286 at-bats. Mauer said he was looking to drive the pitch the other way, but took advantage of a slider up in the zone and was able to pull it to right-center.

"I was just waiting until we played the 13th to do it," Mauer said with a laugh. "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."

So while the power hasn't been there for Mauer this year, he's come up with several big hits, as evidenced by the fact he's tied for the team lead with 24 RBIs.

Mauer on clutch go-ahead homer

He's hitting .419 with runners in scoring position this year, and while his homer was a solo blast, it was another key hit for the Twins who took both games against the Pirates in their two-game series at PNC Park and improved to a season-best six games over .500 at 23-17.

"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."

Mauer's homer helped bail out the offense, as the Twins were held hitless after a single from Mike Pelfrey in the fourth until Torii Hunter singled with one out in the 11th. Hunter came through with a three-run double in the first, but Minnesota didn't score again until Mauer's go-ahead homer.

"You just try to keep finding ways to fight," Molitor said. "A lot of things transpired that gave us a chance. We scored three runs early and our pitching gave us a chance. We were just in a little bit of a slumber."

The bullpen held its own after reliever Blaine Boyer saw his scoreless streak end at 17 2/3 innings after giving up a game-tying homer to Andrew McCutchen in the eighth.

Rule 5 Pick J.R. Graham tossed three scoreless innings before handing it over to lefty Brian Duensing, who tossed a 1-2-3 12th inning to get the win. Closer Glen Perkins threw a scoreless ninth to improve to 15-for-15 in save opportunities this year.

"That was the key," Mauer said. "J.R. coming in and throwing three great innings and then Duensing there. Obviously when we get a lead and we give it to Perk we feel pretty good about our chances. And Pelfrey pitched well, too. So it's nice to get a win when those guys throw well like that."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.