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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A dozen seasons in, there is still plenty of life in Joe Mauer's bat. And hey, a little power too.
The Minnesota Twins first baseman took an 89 mph slider from Pittsburgh's Antonio Bastardo and sent it just over the 21-foot Clemente Wall in right field in the top of the 13th to help the Twins to a 4-3 victory Wednesday night.
The homer was Mauer's first of the season and first since Aug. 17, 2014, a span of 76 games. And don't think he wasn't aware of the drought.
"They can come in bunches, hopefully that's the case," Mauer said. "It was a matter of time before I got the first one under my belt. Took a little longer than it has before, but I'm glad it came when it did."
Torii Hunter went 3 for 5 with three RBIs for the Twins, who improved to an AL-best 13-5 in May. Brian Duensing (2-0) picked up the win. Glen Perkins worked the last inning for his major league-leading 15th save in a game that Minnesota used eight pitchers to send the Pirates to their sixth loss in their last seven games.
"I don't know if I was cut out to manage in the National League or not," Twins manager Paul Molitor joked. "You get a newfound respect when you go through a game like that with all the things that can go on."
Josh Harrison went 3 for 6 for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen had three hits, including a solo home run off Blaine Boyer in the eighth but the Pirates fell to 0-6 in extra-inning games when Bastardo (0-1) let Mauer go deep.
One night after jumping to a 7-0 lead against former Twin Francisco Liriano, Minnesota again wasted little time getting to Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke.
Danny Santana led off with a double, Mauer singled one out later and Trevor Plouffe walked to load the bases with one out. Hunter brought them all home, slapping a double off the Clemente Wall that took a weird bounce off the scoreboard away from Harrison, giving Plouffe time to chug around all the way from first.
Locke finally wiggled free without further damage but needed 36 pitches to get three outs. He regained his control and composure the rest of the way, working six innings while walking two and striking out six but remained winless in his last five starts.
Minnesota starter Mike Pelfrey cooled recently after a hot April, failing to make it out of the fifth inning in two of his last three starts. He immediately gave back a run when Starling Marte singled home Neil Walker in the bottom of the first but breezed through six innings, allowing one run and five hits with no walks before the bullpen gave it away.
"I think my command this year with hitting guys and walking guys has been kind of ridiculous," Pelfrey said. "I need to do a better job of throwing strikes and hopefully that'll lead to pitching deeper in the game."
The Pirates pulled within one on an RBI-single by recently recalled Jose Tabata off Aaron Thompson in the seventh and McCutchen tied it in the eighth with a line shot to center. Pittsburgh couldn't complete the comeback, however, while falling to 0-6 in extra-inning games.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu received a standing ovation before the seventh inning following a brief video tribute by the Pirates. It was the first public appearance for Polamalu since announcing his retirement last month after 12 seasons, including eight Pro Bowls.
Twins: RHP Casey Fein is nearing his return from a strained right shoulder. Fein, who went on the 15-day DL on April 30, threw a bullpen session at Target Field on Wednesday and will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester. OF Oswaldo Arcia, out since May 4 with a right hip flexor strain, will join Fein in Rochester.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton's lengthy rehab from offseason hip surgery appears to be over. The 31-year-old is expected to rejoin Pittsburgh's rotation sometime early next week. Morton struck out nine while giving up two hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday.
Twins: Minnesota is off Thursday then begins a three-game set against the White Sox in Chicago on Friday. Minnesota is 5-2 against the White Sox this season, sweeping a four-game series at home at the beginning of the month, kick-starting the Twins' May surge. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA) starts on Friday. Hughes is 1-4 with a 3.28 ERA in six starts at U.S. Cellular Field.
Pirates: Pittsburgh continues an eight-game homestand on Friday when the New York Mets visit for the weekend. The Pirates took four of seven meetings with the Mets in 2014. Gerrit Cole (5-2, 2.40) is 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA in two career starts against New York.
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