MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been raving about the power potential of Kennys Vargas for years now.
But Vargas still had plenty to prove in the Minors, especially defensively at first base, while also looking to cut down on his strikeouts to improve his batting average.
Vargas finally put it all together at Double-A New Britain this season and was rewarded by being called up to the big leagues for the first time on Thursday. But it was Vargas who rewarded the Twins on Tuesday, as he connected on his first Major League home run to lead the Twins to a 3-1 win over the Padres at Target Field.
Vargas, making his Target Field debut, crushed a hanging curveball from Padres right-hander Jesse Hahn for a three-run blast in the sixth inning, which made Twins right-hander Phil Hughes the winner after tossing six strong innings.
"The fans have been talking getting these young players up and have been reading about them enough so it's fun to get him up here for us, too," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "To watch him walk up there and take those swings is unbelievable. He hit that home run really, really hard, but also hit a line drive to center field just as hard, but at the guy."
Vargas, who was hitting .281/.360/.472 with 17 homers and 17 doubles in 97 games at Double-A before getting called up, had only played at Target Field once before in the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game on July 13.
He doubled in that game and put on a show during batting practice, drilling homers from both sides of the plate. His easy-going nature, his swing from the left side and his stature -- he's listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds -- has led to comparisons to former Twins slugger and Red Sox star David Ortiz.
Vargas, 24, has a long way to go to reach Ortiz's accomplishments, but was excited to homer in his first game at Target Field. He became just the eighth Twins player to homer in a home debut, joining Josmil Pinto, who accomplished the feat last year on Sept. 6.
"Every new player wants their first home run in the Majors to be like that," said Vargas, who is giving the home run ball to his mother in his native Puerto Rico. "I just tried to be focused and make contact with the ball."
The homer from Vargas backed Hughes, who gave up just one run on seven hits and a walk over six innings to get his team-leading 11th win. He also tied a season high by striking out nine batters.
The lone run he allowed came in the fifth on a solo homer from Yonder Alonso. The homer came on an 0-1 fastball from Hughes and was Alonso's sixth of the year.
"I felt pretty good," said Hughes, who was dealing with a broken fingernail on his right index finger. "I was able to locate my pitches probably the best I have in quite a while. That always helps. I thought my stuff was pretty good outside of the one pitch where the ball came over the plate."
Hughes was helped by a strong relay in the second inning to prevent a run from scoring on a double from Alonso. Yasmani Grandal tried to score from first on the double to right from Alonso but was thrown out at home by second baseman Brian Dozier.
"That was a big," Gardenhire said. "It was a nice play. [Oswaldo] Arcia did a nice job off the wall not panicking. And he threw a one-hopper Doz could handle and he got rid of it really quick."
After Hughes exited, relievers Caleb Thielbar, Casey Fien and closer Glen Perkins each threw a scoreless inning to preserve the win. Perkins gave up two hits in the ninth but was able to get out of the jam to get his 28th save.
The Padres outhit the Twins, 12-5, but still came up empty handed, as they went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners.
"We got double-digit hits," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We just couldn't punch them together and get a big one at the end or when we had a couple opportunities. They had one big swing, and that was the difference in the game."