MINNEAPOLIS - Like so many of his teammates, Luke Hughes has been back and forth between Minnesota and the minors almost too many times to count.
The affable Australian began his fourth stint with the Twins this season in powerful fashion.
Hughes hit two home runs to help the Twins take out their hitting frustration on Brad Penny and the Detroit Tigers, stopping a seven-game losing streak with an 11-4 victory on Sunday. Hughes has gone deep three times in two days.
''We know he can do it. We're just happy he's starting to do that now,'' said designated hitter Jason Kubel, who also hit a two-run shot. You can expect a lot more of that this year and next year.''
Next year will depend a lot on how Hughes does in this final month. With 29 games to go for the injury-ravaged fourth-place Twins, extended auditions for their young players have trumped the usual division race.
''You need to take advantage of the opportunity, and if you don't, you wind up in the minor leagues,'' said Hughes, who is playing second base while Alexi Casilla is out with a strained hamstring. The Twins were also without regulars Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer and Denard Span, too.
Hughes drove in five runs for the first time in his career, backing Brian Duensing (9-13) and sparking the Twins to just their fourth win against the Tigers in their last 19 meetings.
Penny (9-10) gave up eight hits, seven runs and two walks in five innings. He struck out five, but this was another non-Justin Verlander flop by the rotation.
Belle Fourche native Jason Kubel also homered, a two-run shot in the first inning, off Penny and drove in three runs.
Hughes hit a two-run drive off the tall wall behind the bullpen in right-center field in the fourth inning after an RBI triple by Rene Tosoni. Then Hughes hit a three-run homer against David Pauley in the seventh.
''He's a strong guy, and when he gets hot it's one of those things where you need to look out for him,'' said shortstop Trevor Plouffe.
Hughes has a home-run swing that comes and goes, but he said he's been spending more time at the ballpark this summer to learn from his veteran teammates and watch more video of his at-bats.
''Hopefully a bunch of guys will jump in together,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said, looking ahead to the final month.
The Tigers hit into five double plays while missing an opportunity to stretch their lead in the American League Central to the biggest of the season. They began the day with a 6 -game lead on the Cleveland Indians and a seven-game edge over the Chicago White Sox.
Duensing induced three double plays to limit the damage. He allowed seven hits, four runs and three walks in six innings, but the left-hander was just happy to win. He was 0-5 with an 8.65 ERA in his first five August starts.
''It was kind of a confidence boost to see that my sinker was actually getting groundballs for once,'' Duensing said.
The Twins won at home for just the third time in their last 18 games at Target Field.
''I think that's more what we feel our team is capable of, what we showed today,'' Plouffe said. ''Obviously we've got some things to work on, and we're going to continue to work. We've got a month left in the season, and I feel like you're going to see a lot more from this team.''
NOTES: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who recently ended his presidential campaign, sat in the first row behind the Tigers' dugout and gave his wife, Mary, a firm smooch when the sixth inning ''Kiss Cam'' feature showed them on the big screen. ... Ben Revere stole his 25th base and leads all rookies in the majors this season in steals. Since rookie Luis Rivas stole 31 bases in 2001, the Twins have had a player surpass 25 steals in a season only twice: Denard Span had 26 in 2010 and Carlos Gomez had 33 in 2008. ... Justin Morneau had three hits, his fourth such game this season but the first since May 29. He raised his batting average to .227. ... Francisco Liriano was the only Twins starter to get a victory in the previous 28 games. He won twice in that stretch.
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