MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer had his first three-hit game of the season and reached base in each of his four at-bats. Jim Thome hit his 594th career home run, a three-run shot in the first inning. Joe Nathan worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Minnesota's injury-riddled stars were solid in Friday night's 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Twins are hoping it's a sign of better times ahead.
"It's a sign of life anyway," Nathan said. "We'd like to build on this and continue to progress and get better."
Manager Ron Gardenhire was a bit more bullish -- especially about Mauer.
"Hit the ball hard pretty much every time up, you're going to see a lot more of it, mark my word," Gardenhire said. "For those of you who have been around here, you've seen it plenty of times and for those of you who have doubted him, you should slap yourself. Right in the face."
Twins starter Francisco Liriano (5-7), who's had his own injury issues over the past couple of seasons, led Minnesota to its third straight win by working seven strong innings. He recovered from a two-hour rain delay and first-inning home run by former teammate Carlos Gomez. Liriano allowed only three hits after that homer and struck out seven.
In his previous start against the Brewers last week, Liriano gave up six runs and eight hits in less than four innings.
"Last time that I pitched against them, I think I was making too many mistakes," Liriano said. "I think I was throwing the ball too high and right down the middle. I think I was making better pitches today."
The Twins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Brewers, who lost their fourth straight and fell out of a first-place tie with St. Louis in the NL Central.
"We're back to just not playing that well," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Defensively, we haven't played that well the last few days. Offensively, we're not swinging it."
Minnesota scored five runs -- two unearned -- off Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo, who has one win in his last five starts. Gallardo (9-5) scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out four.
Gallardo said the rain delay affected him on the mound.
"You have a mindset for a certain time, and the delay comes in and you get off your routine a little bit," Gallardo said. "You have the adrenaline for a certain time of day and the next thing you know it's raining. You've just got to figure out how to stay relaxed."
Thome answered Gomez's homer in the bottom half of the inning after Joe Mauer singled and Michael Cuddyer walked. He was asked about creeping closer to the 600 club, but the veteran slugger said his focus was on staying healthy.
"It's been a frustrating year personally trying to stay healthy and work hard to try to do that and I have not thought about that at all, honestly," Thome said. "Anytime you're on the DL, you want to try to contribute."
But Minnesota added insurance runs in the fifth when Mauer's grounder down the first base line went through Prince Fielder's legs to score Ben Revere. One batter later, Alexi Casilla came home on Cuddyer's groundout to make it 5-2. Danny Valencia added an RBI single in the eighth.
Nathan and Glen Perkins pitched two innings of scoreless relief for Minnesota.
The skies turned ominous about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch and fans headed for cover during a brief rain. Shortly after the rain stopped, the team announced the rain delay due to weather forecasts. About an hour later, a heavy downpour soaked the field and sent fans scrambling for cover again.
Gomez is 12 for 31 against Minnesota, including 5 for 7 with two homers against Liriano. His .387 batting average is his best against any team. ... Roenicke said he anticipated making a roster move after the game to make room for RHP Takashi Saito, who had been on the DL with oblique and back injuries. No move was announced, though. ... Asked before the game if he considered using backup Rene Rivera to catch Liriano, Gardenhire said "I know when Joe was gone, each pitcher threw the ball really well, but Joe's our catcher, he's going to be our catcher, and I'm not going to spot with every pitcher that wants their own little catcher. It doesn't work that way." Gardenhire also reiterated the possibility that Mauer could eventually be used at first base. ... New Jersey Nets forward and former Minnesota Gophers basketball star Kris Humphries threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Humphries' fiance, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, was also in attendance.