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Mauer powers Twins past O’s

Photo by Tommy Gilligan / USA TODAY Minnesota Twins center fielder Danny Santana, left, slides safely at home under the tag of Baltimore Orioles catcher Nick Hundley during the eighth inning on Monday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE — Joe Mauer served as the designated hitter in the Minnesota Twins’ series against the Baltimore Orioles to give his sore left shoulder some rest.

After the final game of the series, Mauer said he was feeling much better, especially after Minnesota finally managed a much-needed victory.

Mauer had four RBIs and hit a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning as the Twins rallied past the Orioles, 6-4 on Monday.

Minnesota avoided being swept in at least a four-game series in Baltimore for the first time in 48 years. The first-place Orioles took a five-game set in July 1966.

“To come back and get this win will make for a better plane ride, that’s for sure,” said Mauer, who is batting .276. “I’ve had some experience with the (DH). It was good to get a couple of days out of the field.”

Twins right-hander Phil Hughes (15-9) put together another effective outing. He allowed three runs (all unearned) on five hits with five strikeouts over eight innings.

“I felt I had pretty good stuff,” Hughes said. “My command wasn’t as good as in the past. I felt I got away with a lot of mistakes today. But I had good enough stuff to overcome that.”

Mauer had three hits, including a triple in the sixth that scored two runs. Rookie first baseman Kennys Vargas had two hits and two RBIs for Minnesota (60-77). Left-hander Glen Perkins got his 33rd save despite allowing Baltimore designated hitter Nelson Cruz to hit his league-leading 36th home run.

“Let’s have a good September. That’s kind of our battle cry,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s going to be led by (Mauer), no doubt.”

Baltimore rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman (7-7) lost his third straight game. He allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks over 7 1/3 innings.

“I thought threw the ball where I wanted to,” Gausman said. “A lot of their hitters are down hitters, so I think fastball up was a big pitch for me today. I used it effectively. I mixed in all my pitches. It kind of sucks that I walked the leadoff guy in the eighth inning — that kind of came back to bite us. It was just one of those days. It was kind of hot out there and you really had to kind of battle from the start.”

Catcher Nick Hundley got his fourth home run of the season, a three-run shot in the seventh that

tied the game at 3-3. First baseman Chris Davis had two hits for the Orioles (79-57).

Minnesota took a 3-0 lead in the sixth when center fielder Danny Santana and second baseman Brian Dozier had back-to-back singles before Mauer cleared the bases with a triple to left. Vargas then hit a sacrifice fly.

The Orioles rallied in the seventh when a throwing error by Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe helped extend the inning. With runners on the corners, third baseman Jimmy Paredes hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out. However, Hundley followed with a homer off Hughes.

Paredes then helped the Twins regain the lead when he failed to handle a sharp grounder by Santana that allowed him to take second and put left fielder Jordan Schafer on third. Left-hander Andrew Miller entered and allowed Mauer to hit a double that scored two runs and a 5-3 lead.

Vargas followed with an RBI single to increase the margin.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the difference in the game was Hughes’ ability to stay ahead of hitters.

“He’s had a solid year for them,” Showalter said. “He’s always taking the ball, giving innings. He’s a good addition for them. We knew he was going to present a challenge. Gauz was good today too. I liked the way he went about his business today. He made a lot of good pitches.”