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Baseball / Sports

Twins pound Royals but joy dimmed by Mauer's injury

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even when the Minnesota Twins win, they still can't win.

It was star first baseman Joe Mauer's fourth-inning, bases-loaded double that sparked the Twins' biggest lead in recent memory. But while the crowd cheered Eduardo Escobar and Sam Fuld home, Mauer pulled up in pain at second base.

Mauer's injury marred an otherwise impressive 10-2 Twins' victory over the error-prone Kansas City Royals at Target Field on Tuesday night. The Twins scored first for the first time in six games and played with more pep than the team had in losing six of its previous seven games.

Mauer's strained right oblique strain will be further evaluated Wednesday, but the Twins first baseman said he has been a bit stiff in that area for about a week.

And even though he said he thought it was getting better, it became clear it wasn't when he took the reaching swing to drive the ball down the line.

"It felt like somebody hit me pretty hard right there," he said.

Mauer attempted to stay in the game in hopes the pain would ease. But Chris Parmelee eventually had to fill in for him at first starting in the fifth inning while Josh Willingham went to left field.

Since the injury comes with Mauer in the midst of a turnaround on a 12-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .362 and 12 RBI, he called it "frustrating" and "bad timing."

Parmelee might have to take over Mauer's streak, as he's on an 11-game run himself.

"Losing Joe like that during a game is not something you want," he said. "We'll do the best we can to, I guess, fill the hole until he gets back.

"When somebody goes down like that, such a key contributor like Joe, somebody's going to have to step up."

Parmelee and shortstop Eduardo Nunez did just that at the top of the order, which Twins manager Ron Gardenhire praised.

In only his second game back from the disabled list, Nunez had three hits in five at-bats, including a homer, walked once and drove in two runs. That puts him at 5-for-9 since his return from a 14-game absence because of a right hamstring strain.

"We missed him when he was gone," Gardenhire said. "You can plug him in just about anywhere on a baseball field, and he gives quality at bats. That was nice of him to step in."

As well as bouncing back for an injured teammate, the Twins also managed to capitalize on two Royals errors and several more mental lapses in beating James Shields (8-4) at Target Field for the second time this season.

"We got some breaks," Gardenhire said. "We squibbed some balls. We had some funny plays. ... We had some things go our way."

That helped Ricky Nolasco earn a much-needed victory. The Twins righthander gave up one run and eight hits, all singles, over six innings. Nolasco (5-6) gave up four hits the first time through the Royals lineup, one of them -- a Mike Moustakas single in the second inning -- driving in Kansas City's first run.

But he settled down after that, and retired the last five batters he faced.

Gardenhire said his team had been on the other end of the error spectrum not long ago but hopes this was the beginning of squaring things for his team.

And if nothing else, he's got a positive outlook.

"We've won two out of our last three," he said. "I think we're smoking."

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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