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Twins stun Hoffman for seventh straight

Twins stun Hoffman for seventh straight

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SAN DIEGO -- Home runs haven't exactly come easy for the Twins this season.

Despite ranking near the top of the American League in runs scored, the Twins entered Tuesday's contest against the Padres ranking last in the Majors in homers with just 46.

But when a team is in the midst of a season-high winning streak, wins seem to come in the most unlikely of ways.

And so on Tuesday night, that meant the Twins belting back-to-back home runs in a ballpark not known for producing them, to capture a 3-1 win over the Padres and extend their winning streak to seven.

Perhaps even more surprising was the manner in which the two homers came.

With the game knotted at 1 heading into the ninth, it was a pair of back-to-back, two-out home runs by Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher off the all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman that earned the victory.

"Not bad for a small-ball team," Harris said.

Hoffman had struck out the first two batters that he faced in the inning before Harris came to the plate. But on the first pitch he saw from the closer, Harris took a belt-high fastball deep to left field.

"I was just looking for a fastball," Harris said. "I saw he got ahead of the first two guys with fastballs and just went right into the changeup. I was just hoping I would get it and put it into play and not have to hit the changeup."

It was the first home run of the game on a night where the ball wasn't travelling well.

But Harris barely even had time to finish high-fiving his teammates for his homer when they heard another crack of the bat. This one was from Buscher, who took yet another first-pitch fastball from Hoffman deep into the right-field seats for his first homer of the year.

It was only the eighth time in his career that Hoffman had allowed two home runs in a game. And he hadn't given up back-to-back dingers since Oct. 1, 2006, in a game at Arizona.

Both home runs were surprising, but perhaps Harris' was the most, considering his struggles earlier in the game against Padres ace Jake Peavy. Harris struck out twice against the right-hander and flied out to right field.

"He was tough," Harris said. "It was a battle all night. His ball was moving. He was throwing hard. He was just tough. I was happy to see him at 100 pitches by the sixth inning."

Despite Peavy having thrown 106 pitches in his six innings, the Twins were only able to tag the right-hander for one run on five hits over that span. And that run came early.

With one out in the first, Alexi Casilla doubled to left field off Peavy. After Joe Mauer struck out for the second out of the inning, Justin Morneau drew the only walk that Peavy would allow over his six innings. Michael Cuddyer then delivered a single to right field to score Casilla for a 1-0 lead.

But while Peavy proved tough, Twins starter Kevin Slowey delivered just a slightly better performance. He pitched six scoreless innings while allowing just four hits and not walking a single batter. He struck out a season-high seven batters in what was his third straight quality start.

After allowing two hits in the first, the right-hander retired 14 straight batters. Only once in Slowey's six innings did a Padres batter advance into scoring position.

The right-hander had thrown just 92 pitches through six innings when Mike Lamb pinch-hit for him in the seventh. But manager Ron Gardenhire said that it was a combination of National League baseball and Slowey's arm injury earlier this season that caused him not to send the pitcher back out.

"Running him up way over 100 pitches going into the next inning was not going to happen," Gardenhire said. "He's already had a little bit of arm stuff earlier in the year. We don't want to get back into that. So it's just an automatic to go from there to the bullpen.

But Slowey's 1-0 lead disappeared that next inning when Jesse Crain took over on the mound for the start of the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez led off the inning with an infield single. He advanced to second on a wild pitch by Crain during Kevin Kouzmanoff's at-bat. Gonzalez then moved to third on Kouzmanoff's single to center and scored when Chase Headley grounded into a forceout at second base, tying the game at 1.

The Twins weathered a potential scare in the eighth after Matt Guerrier put the first two runners on that he faced. But Guerrier would then get two quick outs and Dennys Reyes (2-0) retired the final batter of the inning on the first pitch to keep the game tied.

Then came the two surprising home runs before the Twins sent out their own All-Star closer, Joe Nathan, to pick up his 20th save of the season.

And while it may have seemed like a surprising victory for the Twins, it was only surprising to the Twins in the way it unfolded.

"Guys know we are going to score," Slowey said. "They don't know how or when, but I think that goes a long way with our pitching staff. I know one run is not going to beat us. You just have to throw the pitches and let the defense play behind you because we are going to score runs as we've seen the last five, six games now. We're scratching out victories left and right against some fantastic pitchers."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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