Hughes wins 3rd straight start, Twins top OriolesMinnesota Twins pitcher Phil Hughes delivers to the Baltimore Orioles during the third inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Phil Hughes didn't come to Minnesota to be a savior. He just wanted to throw strikes and help his new team win some games.
On Sunday, he gave the Twins more proof they made a wise investment.
''It starts with the starting pitcher and he gave us a great opportunity against a very potent lineup,'' said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was especially pleased with Hughes' control. ''You put guys on base, you miss a play and you'll wind up killing yourself against those guys.''
Brought in as a free agent to help cure some of the Twins' starting pitching woes, Hughes (3-1) again pitched like the ace the team hoped he'd be.
Hughes gave up two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, walking none and striking out three. He became the first Twins pitcher to win three consecutive starts since Sam Deduno won three straight in July 2013.
''I said in the offseason when they signed him I thought he was a really good sign,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''He gives you a lot of confidence. (He can) go up and go away and let those guys who can really run the ball down run it down. He was effective. He's added the cutter and a lot more.''
Hughes, who left the Yankees in the offseason to join the Twins, gave up four earned runs in each of his first three starts this season. He has given up a total of six earned runs and just one walk in 19 1-3 innings over his last three outings.
The focus was on control the weekend after Twins pitchers issued 22 walks - including 12 by their starters - as the Dodgers swept three games at Target Field earlier in the week. Against the Orioles, the Twins walked just two batters in three games and took two of three in the series.
''I always take pride in throwing strikes, making guys earn their way on base and not giving any free passes,'' Hughes said. ''If we're going to make mistakes in the zone and we're going to get beat on aggressive pitches, so be it. But we don't want to let them on for free.''
After giving up a single to Nick Markakis to start the game, Hughes retired the next 14 batters. Nelson Cruz broke up Hughes' shutout bid with two outs in the sixth, hitting a two-run shot for his ninth homer of the season.
Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save in eight chances this year.
The Twins played most of the day without first baseman Joe Mauer, who left in the top of the third inning with lower-back spasms. Gardenhire said that Mauer underwent treatment throughout the game and said he thinks he could play on Monday.
The Twins scored twice in the third, helped by the hustle of the Twins' most slump-ridden hitter.
Eduardo Escobar led off with a single off Miguel Gonzalez (1-3) and Pedro Florimon, who entered the game hitting .121, followed with a routine ground ball to second base.
Running hard down the line, Florimon barely beat shortstop J.J. Hardy's double-play relay to first base.
Brian Dozier then singled and one out later, Plouffe lined a double into the left-field corner that scored both runners.
Gonzalez walked the bases full with two outs, then walked Kurt Suzuki to force home a run. Reliever Troy Patton bailed him out of the jam by retiring Sam Fuld.
The Twins tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh against reliever Ryan Webb. Chris Colabello hit a one-out double, Jason Kubel walked and Suzuki hit a double to left that scored both runners.
Kubel slid home just ahead of catcher Matt Wieters' tag, a call that was confirmed via an instant-replay challenge.
NOTES: Plouffe leads the majors with 14 doubles. ... Minnesota wrapped up an eight-game homestand with a 3-5 record. RHP Kyle Gibson (3-2, 4.34) is scheduled to start on Monday when the Twins begin a four-game series at Cleveland.