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Perfect 10 for surging Twins

Perfect 10 for surging Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The last thing the Twins wanted to do on Friday night was get in a slugfest with the Brewers.

Milwaukee is fourth in the Majors in home runs, while Minnesota ranks 29th.

But a packed ballpark that used to be known as the "Homer Dome" was again a launching pad for home runs on Friday night. The Brewers and Twins combined for seven homers in the see-saw battle between the Interleague opponents.

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And this time, it was the Twins who came up with the biggest home run -- Joe Mauer's two-out solo shot to center field in the eighth inning -- to capture a 7-6 victory over the Brewers and extend their season-high winning streak to 10 games.

Facing right-hander Guillermo Mota with the game knotted at 6, Mauer was down in the count, 0-2. Then he fouled off three pitches before getting a 96-mph fastball, which he belted 416 feet.

"I threw the pitch up and in," Mota said. "I missed the spot and he got it."

It was a sweet time for Mauer to deliver his third home run of the season. Power hasn't exactly come easy for the catcher this season, even as he hit many balls on the screws. That includes two earlier in Friday night's game -- a double off the left-center-field wall and a deep flyout to nearly the same spot.

"Earlier in that game, I felt like I got a couple pretty good," Mauer said. "But I hit it to my favorite spot in the world here at the Metrodome. So [the homer] was good especially with Mota's fastball. I just had to hit it in the right spot and let his fastball do the work."

The Twins had started the homer fest in the first inning, when Alexi Casilla hit a solo shot to right field.

But that lead didn't hold up for long, as Twins starter Nick Blackburn struggled to keep his pitches down throughout his outing.

The Brewers lost the game but bested the Twins in the home run derby, hitting four to Minnesota's three, with all of them coming off Blackburn. Over his 4 2/3 innings, the right-hander gave up six runs, all on the homers. Blackburn scattered nine hits and struck out five while not issuing a walk.

Milwaukee got started on its long-ball brigade with a pair of back-to-back solo homers in the second inning by Corey Hart and Russell Branyan. Hart hit a second home run in the fifth, a deep two-run shot to left field and the second two-run blast that Blackburn allowed in the frame before being pulled.

"I was way out of rhythm," Blackburn said. "I couldn't find anything tonight."

When Blackburn exited the game, Minnesota trailed, 6-3, marking the third straight game that the club found itself in a three-run deficit. But once again, as they've done throughout this surprising winning streak, the Twins managed to knick away at the opposing pitching staff.

"I don't recommend that theory," manager Ron Gardenhire said about falling behind. "But as long as we keep playing, it's a nine-inning baseball game."

Jason Kubel, who hit a solo home run in the fourth, played a big part in Minnesota's late resurgence. His one-out, bases-loaded sac fly in the fifth drove in another run. Delmon Young followed with an RBI single to pull the Twins within one, 6-5, and force Brewers starter Seth McClung out of the game after 4 2/3 innings.

Kubel then scored the tying run in the seventh on Brian Buscher's single to left field off left-hander Brian Shouse.

The Twins' bullpen did its share, too. Brian Bass pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings after Blackburn's exit, and Matt Guerrier held the Brewers bats at bay for the eighth to pick up his fourth win of the season. Joe Nathan then came in and, despite giving up two hits, picked up his 22nd save of the season.

"We're playing in the moment," Nathan said. "You don't hear guys talking about what we've done and what we need to do. It's really about going out and seeing what situation comes up and what guys can do. And it seems like a different guy or group of guys is stepping up every night."

The Twins are now 13-3 in Interleague Play, and while starting pitching has been a big part of that success, Minnesota seemed more than content with seeing the offense take the wheel for one night.

"It helps out so much to know the offense is putting up the numbers that they are, and the bullpen -- the way they are throwing," Blackburn said. "I mean, it's been unbelievable these last 10 games. No matter what happens, we're going to keep fighting until we come out on top."

And that even includes producing homers when necessary.

"I think we have people that can hit home runs," Gardenhire said. "First, you have to find your swing, and I think the ball will fly out of the ballpark. We've got guys that have power and are still learning to hit. We have a young team overall and eventually the ball is going to fly."

If Friday night was any indication, the "Homer Dome" might become a more common phrase again.

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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