HOUSTON -- It may be 95 degrees in the Texas sunshine, but even in the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park, Joe Mauer is hotter.
The Twins' senior player, just back from an oblique injury that kept him sidelined nearly six weeks, drilled a sixth-inning fastball into the Astros' bullpen, extending his hitting streak to 15 games and helping earn the Twins a 3-1 victory.
Mauer contributed two hits in four at-bats and was walked intentionally once, giving him five hits in three games since his return. His home run, Mauer's third of the season but first since May 3, broke up a scoreless pitching duel between young pitchers Kyle Gibson and Brett Oberholtzer.
Kennys Vargas added a big hit of his own, too, knocking in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the eighth inning.
Gibson allowed one run on six hits over 7 2/3 innings, bouncing back from a bad outing last Friday in Oakland. The 26-year-old right-hander improved to 11-9 on the season and reduced his ERA to 3.96. He was on the verge of his ninth scoreless outing of the season, but a single by Chris Carter, the last batter Gibson faced, scored Jose Altuve with Houston's lone run.
The Twins have Thursday off, then return to Target Field to begin an 11-game homestand on Friday against Josh Willingham and the first-place Royals.
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