BALTIMORE -- The Twins have been out of the playoff race for quite some time, but if the club is to get back to contending next season, it'll be leaning heavily on veterans Phil Hughes and Joe Mauer.
Hughes has established himself as the ace of the staff, while Mauer is undoubtedly having a down year, but has been faring much better since returning in mid-August from a right oblique injury.
Both Hughes and Mauer came up big on Monday afternoon, as Hughes continued his run of success while Mauer added four RBIs, including a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth to lead the Twins to a 6-4 win over the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the club will be counting on Mauer's production to avoid a September freefall, as the club would like to finish the year on a high note.
"Hopefully we'll have a good September," Gardenhire said. "We're 1-0 in September and we're going to need him. 'Let's have a good September here,' is our battle cry. And it'll be led by him. No doubt."
Hughes, who went 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in five starts in August, kept his impressive season going by giving up three unearned runs over eight innings to improve to 15-9 with a 3.54 ERA on the year. The right-hander gave up five hits while striking out five and was hurt by three unearned runs in the seventh.
"I feel like I had pretty good stuff but my command wasn't as good as in the past," Hughes said. "I felt like I got away with a lot of mistakes today but had good enough stuff to overcome that. That was kind of the story."
But he was still able to outduel Baltimore right-hander Kevin Gausman, who surrendered five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks over 7 1/3 innings.
"He kept the ball in the park and gave us a good chance to win," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I was proud of him. He was good today."
The Twins didn't get on the board until the sixth inning, when Danny Santana and Brian Dozier singled with one out. Gausman uncorked a wild pitch to move up both runners before Mauer connected on a two-run triple off the wall in left field that was misplayed by Delmon Young.
It was the second triple of the year for Mauer, who promptly scored on a sacrifice fly from Kennys Vargas to give the Twins a three-run lead.
But the Orioles tied it up in the seventh thanks to some shoddy defense from the Twins. Chris Davis singled with one out before J.J. Hardy hit into a potential 5-4-3 double play, but Trevor Plouffe's throw sailed wide and into right field to put runners at the corners with one out.
Jimmy Paredes followed with a slow roller to first baseman Vargas, who opted to throw home for an out, but didn't step on the base at first to spoil another potential double play.
"We made a mistake," Gardenhire said. "Ultimately it ends up costing you."
Nick Hundley made the Twins pay with a three-run blast to left field on a 1-2 cutter to tie the game after his 0-2 cutter missed inside. All three runs were unearned.
"It got too much plate," Hughes said. "It kind of looked like he was looking for that pitch again."
The Twins, though, quickly rallied back in the eighth to take another three-run lead keyed by an error from Paredes at third base. Jordan Schafer opened with a walk before Santana hit a soft liner to Paredes, who couldn't handle it for an error to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
After Dozier struck out, left-hander Andrew Miller was brought in to face Mauer. But the move backfired, as Mauer roped a first-pitch fastball to left field to score two runs with Mauer going to second on the throw. Vargas then gave the Twins an insurance run with a single to left to bring home Mauer.
"With that situation, I thought he'd try to get ahead early and then go with the slider so I looked for a heater up and got one," Mauer said. "So it was good not to miss it."
Closer Glen Perkins gave up a solo homer in the ninth to Nelson Cruz, but was still able to get his 33rd save for the Twins, who were able to avoid a four-game sweep.
"That's a good team over there so to get that lead with the way Phil was pitching and then for them to tie it up and us to respond was great," Mauer said. "To come back and get this win will make for a better plane ride, for sure."