Published April 23, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS – Justin Morneau understood why Indians manager Manny Acta intentionally walked Jason Kubel to load the bases for him in the fifth inning on Saturday.
Kubel was one of the few Minnesota Twins swinging the bat well and Morneau was hitting .200 and playing for the first time since missing five games with a nasty bout of the flu.
There was plenty of baseball logic behind the decision. That doesn't mean Morneau had to like it.
Morneau's big two-run single in the fifth helped the Twins break out of a season-long offensive slump in a 10-3 victory over Cleveland.
"You can't look into it more than it is," Morneau said. "They wanted to set up the double play and I haven't hit as well as I have in the past yet this year. But there's no reason to believe I'm not going to get a hit there."
Brian Duensing (2-0) gave up one run on five hits in seven innings. The Twins scored more than five runs in a game for the first time this season, one night after the series opener was postponed by rain.
Fausto Carmona (1-3) gave up six runs on seven hits and walked four in five innings for the Indians. Grady Sizemore hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Dusty Hughes, but the game was already out of reach by then.
Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer and Jason Kubel had two hits and three RBIs for the Twins, who entered the day with the fewest runs scored in the majors.
Morneau, who had two hits, had missed the previous five games because of an illness that has been circulating through the Twins clubhouse, and he got an extra day of rest when the game Friday night was rained out.
He was hitting just .208 on the season in his first action since July because of a concussion, one of many Twins struggling at the plate.
So it was no surprise when the Indians walked Kubel to load the bases with one out for Morneau fifth. But he made them pay with a single to center field that scored Denard Span and Alexi Casilla to give the Twins a 5-1 lead. He picked up his fourth and fifth RBIs of the season and the Twins took a 6-1 lead after five.
"I want to be up there with guys in scoring position and I want to be up there with guys on base and that's it," Morneau said. "That's the situation I want to be in. That's why I hit fourth. I enjoy that situation. To come through with a hit and finally score some runs as a team was good."
Acta wasn't pleased with how Carmona approached the at-bat, saying he would have rather seen Carmona lean on his sinker to try to get a double play.
"If I'm in bed for four days, I think I'd rather see an 86 mph changeup than 92 mph sinker," Acta said. "Those are lessons to be learned."
It was no surprise when this series opened that it featured the first-place and last-place team in the AL Central. But most figured when the season started that the Twins would be on top of the division, with the Indians fighting the Royals for a place in the Central basement again.
But the Indians have been one of the pleasant surprises of the first month. Sizemore is back from a serious knee injury, Travis Hafner is swinging the bat much better and the bullpen has shut things down to help the Indians (13-7) to the best record in the AL.
Injuries and illness have gutted the Twins, causing Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young all to miss big chunks of time. One of the preseason favorites to win the division, they started the day with the worst record in the American League at 7-12.
They were the only team in the league not to score more than five runs in a game this season, but finally broke through against Carmona on Sunday.
The scored three in the third, three more in the fifth and two in the sixth before Valencia's homer to left field off of Chad Durbin to made it 10-1 after seven.
"It was great," Valencia said. "It seemed like everybody clicked. To score a lot of runs like that, it was much needed and it was a long time coming."
NOTES: Durbin gave up four runs on four hits in two innings of relief for Cleveland. ... Young missed his fourth straight game because of a rib injury and an illness. ... Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek was back at work after missing the start of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina. ... Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said they will likely make up the game with the Indians when they visit in the second series after the All-Star break.