Twins' Vargas caps duel with walk-off homer

Twins' Vargas caps duel with walk-off homer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kennys Vargas came through with a walk-off solo blast with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Twins to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon at Target field.

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Vargas' game-winning homer came on a 1-1 curveball from reliever Carlos Villanueva and helped the Twins win their second straight over the Cardinals, after St. Louis won both games at Busch Stadium.

"I go out there and I throw the pitch I want in basically the location I want and I get beat -- there's not much I can do," Villanueva said.

The walk-off win was keyed by Joe Mauer connecting on a game-tying solo homer to left field with two outs in the eighth off lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist.

"It was a couple big moments for guys looking for something to hopefully get jump-started," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Mauer and Vargas. "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."

Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey kept his club in the game, as he gave up just one run on four hits over eight innings. Pelfrey's lone mistake was giving up a solo homer to Jason Heyward with two outs in the seventh.

Pelfrey's eight stellar innings

Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia tossed six-plus scoreless innings, scattering just four hits and two walks. He pitched his way out of a jam in the first and settled down from there. He left in the seventh after allowing the first two batters to reach, but Cardinals reliever Seth Maness got out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Vargas to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"If I were [Garcia], I'd be pretty confident right now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Every time he's going out there, he's taking us deep into the game and not giving [up] many opportunities."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mauer's blast ties it in the 8th:
Minnesota's offense was quiet all afternoon until Mauer connected on a game-tying solo blast to left field. It was just Mauer's third homer of the year, but came in a big spot.

"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." More >

Mauer's game-tying solo homer

Heyward's solo shot breaks tie: Heyward broke the scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a home run on a 3-1 pitch to right-center. Statcast™ projected that the ball landed 410 feet away from home plate. Heyward drove in the Cardinals' lone run on Wednesday, too.

"[Pelfrey] didn't make too many mistakes," Heyward said. "I feel like in every count, he made good pitches. He stuck to his strength and [threw] the heavy ball. It was off the barrel just enough."

Heyward's solo home run

Twins can't cash in: The Twins had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh after the Cardinals intentionally walked Kurt Suzuki following a sacrifice bunt from Eduardo Nunez. Vargas came to the plate, but couldn't come through, as Maness induced an inning-ending double play.

Maness induces huge double play

Garcia delivers solid outing: Garcia pitched in just seven games last year before having season-ending surgery. But the southpaw, who started his sixth game this season on Thursday, is healthy and going strong. He took a no-decision despite holding the Twins scoreless for six-plus innings. More >

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The walk-off homer was the first one for Vargas in his career and the first for the Twins since Trevor Plouffe connected on a walk-off blast against the Indians on April 17. It was also just the second walk-off win of any kind for Minnesota this year.

QUOTABLE
"It's a really good experience for these guys to play a really fundamentally sound team that knows how to win and compete with them. I don't know how we'll respond after winning these two games, but I think that's really valuable experience we gained."
-- Molitor on the Twins splitting the four-game home-and-home series with the Cardinals

REPLAY REVIEW
With Hunter at first base after a drawing a leadoff walk in the seventh, Eddie Rosario hit a slow roller to first baseman Mark Reynolds, who dove to first base to try to tag the bag before Rosario got there. First-base umpire Ed Hickox ruled Rosario was out, but the Twins challenged the call and it was overturned, giving Minnesota two runners on with nobody out.

Rosario gets single after review

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: The Cardinals will continue on their eight-game road trip, heading to Philadelphia for the weekend. Tyler Lyons will get the ball Friday when the Cardinals take on the Phillies at 6:05 p.m. CT. Lyons, filling in for the injured Lance Lynn, is 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA in four starts this season.

Twins: The Twins start a three-game Interleague series with the Cubs that begins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Phil Hughes will make the start in the series opener at Target Field. He's struggled to replicate his success from last year, as he's 4-6 with a 4.79 ERA.

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