Homer-happy Twins streak to fifth straight win

Homer-happy Twins streak to fifth straight win

Homer-happy Twins streak to fifth straight win
DETROIT -- With the second-fewest homers in the American League, the Twins haven't exactly been using the long ball to their advantage this season.

But they've been supplying the power recently, and it was on display against the Tigers on Tuesday night, with Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer homering to lead the Twins to an 8-6 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park after an hour and 30-minute rain delay before the start of the game.

It stretched the Twins' win streak to a season-high five games and Minnesota has hit 11 blasts over that span, including three games with at least three homers.

"We've got guys who can drive a baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been saying that all year long. Josh has been doing it all year long. Mauer can hit home runs. You've seen Trevor. I don't know how to describe it anymore, he's just incredible. Seems like every night he's doing something huge, and he had a heck of a ballgame tonight."

It marked the sixth time since June 4 that both Willingham and Plouffe homered in the same game for the Twins, and the seventh time they've done it on the same day. They both homered on Saturday in different game in Minnesota's doubleheader against Kansas City.

"It's really cool," Willingham said. "Any time that can happen, especially when they're really big hits like that that end up winning us a ballgame, or helping us get a win, it's really cool. It's something I hope continues."

Willingham, who got the Twins out to an early lead with a sacrifice fly in the first, crushed a two-run blast off left-hander Duane Below as part of a five-run third inning for Minnesota. It was his 18th of the season, and it scored Mauer, who reached on a run-scoring error by Tigers shortstop Ramon Santiago.

Below, who was making a spot start in place of Max Scherzer (left hamstring injury), then gave up an infield single to Justin Morneau before being relieved by Jose Ortega.

Ortega, though, promptly gave up a two-run blast to Plouffe to give the Twins a 6-3 lead. It was Plouffe's team-leading 19th homer and his 18th over his last 39 games.

"He's swinging the bat good and he's hitting some mistakes, to his credit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He got a mistake and he hit it out of the park. The ball's always jumped off his bat. He's a former No. 1 pick. It looks like he's coming around."

Right-hander Nick Blackburn couldn't hold the lead, however, as he served up a solo shot to Brennan Boesch and a game-tying two-run blast to Austin Jackson in the bottom of the fourth.

"I haven't had maybe one good outing this year, and it's beyond me at this point," said Blackburn, who has an 8.10 ERA. "I go out, I throw my bullpens, everything goes good. I know bullpens don't count, but it would be different if I didn't feel right up on the mound. I go in every game with confidence because I feel like I have the stuff to compete, and I'm just not. It's not a whole lot of fun."

But the Twins retook the lead in the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Doumit with the bases loaded and one out. And Mauer hit his solo shot in the ninth, adding some insurance for the Twins.

"I don't know what's going on with the water in the clubhouse right now but Mauer is drinking it, too," said left-hander Glen Perkins. "It's fun to watch. You never know with those guys what's going to happen."

It was enough for the bullpen, as relievers Jeff Gray, Kyle Waldrop, Tyler Robertson and Perkins combined to toss five scoreless innings to preserve the win. Plouffe aided the cause by snaring a liner from Miguel Cabrera for an inning-ending double play in the seventh.

It marked the second straight game the bullpen threw five scoreless frames, while Perkins pitched for a fourth straight game and picked up his fourth save in Matt Capps' absence.

"He wanted the ball," Gardenhire said. "We talked to him before, we said, 'How you doing, Perk?' and he said, 'I want the ball, I'm in.' That's all a guy has to do. He feels great. He won't win that argument tomorrow. I'll tell you that."

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