HOUSTON -- Monday was a day of ups and downs for Joe Mauer.
Luckily for Minnesota's star first baseman the long day ended on a positive note.
Mauer had two hits in his return from the disabled list, including a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning, to help the Twins to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Mauer was elated to rejoin his team after a 34-game stint on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right side. But his excitement was tempered when Josh Willingham, one of his best friends on the team, was traded to the Royals just before the game.
"I was on a high coming in and seeing everybody and then to see one of our guys go out that was pretty tough," he said. "But then to win the ballgame was a good way to end it."
A pair of walks by Josh Fields (2-5) left runners at first and second with two outs in the ninth when Mauer hit a groundball single to left field that scored Jordan Schafer. Brian Dozier also scored on the play when rookie left fielder Domingo Santana held the ball for several seconds before throwing it in.
"I just panicked," Santana said. "I was just trying to throw the ball to the cutoff man, but I just panicked."
Mauer, who doubled in the third inning, extended his hitting streak to 13 games in his first game since July 1.
"This guy, I've always said he can get right out of bed and hit," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Brian Duensing (3-2) got the last two outs of the eighth inning for the win and Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth for his 29th save.
Chris Carter and Jose Altuve both had solo homers for Houston and Jake Marisnick had a career-high four hits. Carter connected for his 26th homer to make it 2-2 in the fifth inning.
Tommy Milone allowed eight hits and two runs in his debut with the Twins after being traded from Oakland for Sam Fuld on July 31.
"Good to get the first one out of the way," Milone said. "Obviously going out there with a new team you want to pitch well and I felt like I did that."
Houston starter Brad Peacock allowed seven hits and two runs in five innings.
Eduardo Escobar was at third with two outs in the fourth when an error by Peacock on a pickoff attempt at first base allowed him to score and make it 2-1. First baseman Jon Singleton crashed into first base umpire Bill Welke and knocked him to the ground as he chased the ball. Welke was OK but got up slowly and kept trying to brush the dirt off his uniform for more than an inning.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the first on Plouffe's fielder's choice.
The Astros tied it up in the bottom of the inning on Altuve's homer.
Minnesota: RHP Ricky Nolasco (elbow) made his second rehabilitation start for Class A Cedar Rapids on Sunday and Gardenhire said that he should make his next start for the Twins.
Houston: OF Alex Presley (strained right side) will begin a rehabilitation assignment with short-season Class A Tri-City on Tuesday. Presley expects to come off the DL sometime during Houston's upcoming road trip to Boston and New York.
Houston's Collin McHugh opposes Yohan Pino when the series continues on Tuesday night. Pino is looking for his first win since July 10 and McHugh will try to snap a six-game skid.