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Mauer cranks a solo homer for an early lead

ARLINGTON -- It had been quite some time since Joe Mauer broke out into his home run trot.

But after 315 homerless days, Mauer finally connected on a first-inning solo blast off right-hander Colby Lewis that helped set the tone for a 7-2 win over the Rangers on Wednesday that also featured impressive performances from left-hander Brian Duensing, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.

"It felt good to get the lead and get on the board right away," said Mauer, who went 2-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs. "I hit it well. It was just a fastball down and in, maybe a little cutter. He throws a lot of cutters, so I was looking in a little bit. And I was able to put a good swing on it."

Mauer's shot, coming on a 1-1 pitch from Lewis, was just one of several hard-hit balls from the Twins, who won for a second straight night after losing the opener, 20-6. The homer brought a smile to manager Ron Gardenhire, who was happy to see his star catcher hit one into the seats.

"He had a smile from ear to ear, I know that," Gardenhire said. "He actually went up there, and I don't know if it was a cutter and he tried to come in and didn't get it in where he wanted to. He clicked on it pretty good, made a good sound for us."

Duensing was also on his game, allowing just one run on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. He gave up the lone run in the fourth on an RBI groundout from Michael Young to score Elvis Andrus, who led off the frame with a double.

"I think Joe and I had a pretty good approach," said Duensing, who improved to 8-8 on the year. "We tried to keep them off-balance by going in hard and trying to open up the outside the corner. Fortunately, I thought things were moving today. My two-seamer was sinking pretty good."

Cuddyer also continued his hot hitting, crushing his team-leading 15th homer in the fourth on a first-pitch slider from Lewis.

Mauer and Cuddyer were at it again in the fifth, as Mauer plated a run with an RBI single and advanced to second on the throw home before scoring on a single from Cuddyer, who was caught in a rundown to end the inning.

"They beat us up pretty good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They put the ball in play, and once they get guys on base, they put pressure on you. They can do a lot of things, and now they've got guys back who can hit the ball out of the ballpark."

It was more than enough offense for Duensing, who was able to get out of a few key jams, including in the fifth inning, when he had runners at second and third with two outs. But he was able to strike out Ian Kinsler looking to end the frame.

Duensing had a bit of a scare in the sixth, as he appeared to jam his knee while backing up a throw to second base from center fielder Ben Revere. He threw a few warmup pitches and remained in the game.

"I was fine," Duensing said. "I tried to plant going to my left, and the grass kind of grabbed the cleat a little bit. I felt a little bit of a tweak or a zing in the outside part of my right knee, but it just scared me more than anything. But everything is fine."

Duensing ran into trouble again in the seventh after striking out Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland, as he walked Yorvit Torrealba before Endy Chavez hit a bloop single into center. Right-hander Matt Capps then came out of the bullpen and was able to get Kinsler to ground out to end the inning.

Capps got the first out of the eighth before handing it off to left-hander Glen Perkins, who finished off the inning.

The Twins then got three big insurance runs, as Kubel ripped a three-run double in the ninth to put the game out of reach. It marked a big night for the middle of the lineup, with Mauer, Cuddyer and Kubel combining for seven hits, seven RBIs and five runs.

"I had a couple RBIs, Cuddyer had a couple RBIs and Kubel, too," Mauer said. "So it was nice to have the middle of the order drive in some runs."

With the win, the Twins moved to within six games of the first-place Tigers, who lost to the White Sox earlier in the day. And they now have a chance to take the four-game series in Texas, despite being outscored by 14 runs in the series opener.

"That's a good team over there," Mauer said. "Hopefully, we can get this one tomorrow and win a four-game series over a quality team. That would be huge. The first night wasn't pretty, so it's a good thing runs like that don't overlap. Games like that are just one win, so I'm happy with how we responded."

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