MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -When Detroit Tigers left fielder Clete Thomas leaped high to rob Joe Mauer of a home run in the first inning, the Minnesota Twins catcher simply told himself to put a little extra on it the next time around.
The way the two-time AL batting champion is hitting these days, things like that are coming easy for him.
Mauer hit a home run just over Thomas's glove in the third inning and the Twins' struggling bullpen protected a lead for three innings in a 6-2 victory Tuesday night.
``It felt good,' Mauer said. ``I'm seeing the ball pretty good and put a couple good swings on it.'
Joe Crede homered for the Twins in his first at-bat after missing three games with a hamstring injury.
Jeff Larish and Ramon Santiago homered for Detroit, but Armando Galarraga (3-3) still hasn't figured out how to beat Minnesota. He gave up five runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings and is 0-5 with a 5.63 ERA in his career against the Twins.
``Not good,' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``It seemed like we should've had five or six runs but we didn't have any, so not good.'
Kevin Slowey (5-1) gave up one run and eight hits in six innings for the Twins. Reliever Jesse Crain was booed lustily after giving up a leadoff homer to Santiago to start the seventh, but Jose Mijares, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan retired nine in a row for an embattled bullpen that surrendered a two-run lead in the eighth against Seattle on Sunday.
With one on in the first inning, Mauer lifted a drive the opposite way that was headed to the seats. But Thomas leaped at the left field wall and caught it just before it would have landed in the first row.
``He said, 'All right, I'm just going to hit it harder,'' Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. ``And he sneaked it by him.'
In the third, Mauer did put a little extra oomph on it. Thomas ran out of real estate and slammed into the wall as Mauer's two-run homer barely reached the seats for a 4-0 lead.
``He hit it and I turned the wrong way,' Thomas said. ``So I probably could have had that one too, but I turned the wrong way off the jump and it got by me. That one was definitely hit better, so that would've been a harder play, but I still think I should've made it.'
The sweet-swinging lefty had two hits and a walk in his seventh multi-hit game and fifth in a row in a start that has been surprising even by his lofty standards.
He is hitting .500 (16 for 32) despite missing all of spring training and the first 22 games of the season with a back injury and has come back stronger than ever.
Mauer homered on his first swing of the season and has four on the season. It took him 78 games to hit four homers last year, and only 10 to do it this season.
``He can hit the ball a long ways,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``He's driving it right now. The ball's jumping off his bat.'
Slowey had to work had in every inning. He got bailed out in the fifth when second baseman Matt Tolbert made a brilliant diving stop of a grounder from Miguel Cabrera to start an inning-ending double play.
But the Tigers never could string hits together and left eight men on base as their three-game winning streak ended.
``We just couldn't get a big hit,' Leyland said. ``We had some opportunities, just couldn't knock in a run.'
Notes: Leyland twice left the dugout to argue calls in the game and went 1-1 against the umpires. In the first, Tolbert made a catch in foul territory and threw to 1B where umpire Paul Nauert ruled Larish out. But after Leyland argued that Larish tagged up before leaving the base, home plate umpire Ed Rapuano overturned the call. In the sixth, 1B umpire Paul Schrieber ruled that Crede beat out a double-play throw from 2B Placido Polanco. Replays showed that he was out. ... Tigers 3B Brandon Inge reached base in 24 straight games to start the season. But after going 0 for 4 on Tuesday, he is 3 for his last 25 with 11 strikeouts while his batting average has plummeted from .316 to .269.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved