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Hughes, Twins shutout Padres

May 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes (45) throws during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Photo by: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Sports Xchange: SAN DIEGO -- The Minnesota Twins' investment in Phil Hughes is already paying dividends.

For the second time in three starts, the 27-year-old right-hander threw seven shutout innings Wednesday night, and the Twins blanked the Padres 2-0 to complete a sweep of a two-game interleague series at Petco Park.

Hughes allowed seven hits, and he didn't issue a walk for a fifth consecutive start. He has faced 147 hitters since he last walked a batter, the third-longest streak between walks in Twins history.

Right fielder Chris Parmelee hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to break up a scoreless pitching duel between Hughes(5-1) and Padres right-hander Tyson Ross (5-4). Third baseman Trevor Plouffe hit a 439-foot homer off Padres reliever Dale Thayer in the eighth for the game's final run.

San Diego was shut out for the eighth time this season, and the loss was the Padres' eighth straight to Minnesota dating back to June 2005. Twins pitchers have combined for three shutouts this year.

The Twins signed Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract as a free agent last winter after he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA for the New York Yankees last season. He was originally a first-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2004.

Hughes needed only 94 pitches to negotiate seven innings Wednesday, 72 of those going for strikes. He lowered his ERA from 3.61 to 3.15.

Right-hander Casey Fien and left-hander Glen Perkins (14th save) each worked an inning to complete the shutout.

"I knew this was going to be a fight," said Ross, who allowed one run on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

"Hughes had great command of his fastball and cutter tonight. I've had great run support the past couple of weeks. It just didn't work out tonight."

Hughes won his fifth decision in a row, and for the eighth time in his nine start, he departed with the Twins either leading or tied.

"I threw more breaking balls tonight," he said. "I wanted to see if they were expecting mostly fastballs. I hadn't thrown many curves recently and wanted to bring that more into play tonight."

Through five innings, Ross outpitched Hughes, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six.

However, Ross walked Joe Mauer with one out in the sixth. The first baseman stole second (only his second steal of the season) and moved to third on an infield single up the third base line by Plouffe.

Ross got ahead of Parmelee with two quick strikes, but the left-handed hitter lifted a fly to left to drive in Mauer with the game's first run.

Plouffe reached the second deck in left-center with his third homer of the season. The homer was the fourth off Thayer in his last six outings after the right-hander allowed only one run in his first 18 appearances of the season.

Left fielder Seth Smith had three of the Padres' eight hits. Third baseman Chase Headley and center fielder Cameron Maybin each collected two hits.

The Padres wasted an excellent opportunity in the bottom of the sixth. Headley and first baseman Yonder Alonso opened the inning with back-to-back singles, and Headley reached third with one out on second baseman Jedd Gyorko's grounder to third that resulted in a force out of Alonso at second.

Hughes struck out right fielder Will Venable on a high, full-count fastball. Maybin then grounded out to short to end the inning.

NOTES: Padres manager Bud Black left Wednesday night's game early, and he will miss Thursday's opener of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs to attend his daughter Jessie's graduation from the University of Maryland. ... The Twins (23-21) are two games over .500 for the first time since they were 9-7 between games of a doubleheader on April 23. This is the latest in a season that they have been over .500 since the end of the 2010 season. ... Wednesday night's game started an hour earlier than normal due to concerns that the Twins would miss the 11:30 p.m. PDT curfew for departing flights from San Diego's Lindbergh Field. The Twins traveled to San Francisco on Wednesday night.