There was plenty for the Minnesota Twins to enjoy about Monday’s one-sided win over the Cleveland Indians, but Justin Morneau’s night has to be pretty high on the list of positives.
Morneau hit a pair of home runs and drove in a team-high four runs to help the Twins rout the Indians by a 14-3 final. It was Morneau’s fourth multi-hit game in the past five days as he raised his batting average to .275 this season.
Morneau’s first home run Monday came in the Twins’ 10-run second inning and was one of three homers hit by Minnesota in the inning. Right after Josh Willingham homered to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the second inning, Morneau took Indians starter Zach McAllister deep to right field to make it back-to-back homers and a 2-1 Twins lead. Morneau connected on a 2-2 curveball from McAllister.
Morneau finished the second inning with two hits in the frame. He also had a two-out RBI single as Minnesota’s 11th batter of the second inning, driving in Joe Mauer from second.
After his two-hit inning, Morneau wasn’t done. He blasted another home run in the fourth inning, this time off reliever Josh Tomlin on yet another curveball. It was Morneau’s second homer of the game, his 15th of the season and the 200th of his major league career — which has been plagued by injuries in recent years.
“The more at-bats he gets and the more work he’s able to do, he’s putting better swings on it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Morneau. “I don’t think there’s any restrictions now. He’s feeling pretty good. He’s been playing a lot of games. We’ve talked about days off. We even talked about it today, having a day off, whether it’s tomorrow or the next day. What’s your bet? I’m betting he’s not going to want one now, but we’ll see.”
The 31-year-old Morneau became the seventh player in Twins history to hit 200 home runs in his career. He’s also just the fourth Canadian-born player to reach that milestone, joining fellow Canadians Larry Walker, Matt Stairs and Jason Bay. Morneau’s 200th homer came in his 1,103rd career game. Of course, he missed half of the 2010 season and most of the 2011 season due to injuries.
“It felt great. I think I’m able to appreciate it a little bit more now,” Morneau said after the game. “It was something I was probably hoping or thinking I would have reached a while ago, but I think I’m able to appreciate it. I got a little bit emotional, a little excited. I was pretty happy. It was just a good day all around.”
Monday also marked Morneau’s third multi-homer game this season and his first since May 24. Since the beginning of July, Morneau has batted .345 after Monday’s three-hit night. At the end of July, he was hitting just .239 through 58 games.
There were times this season where Morneau appeared to be a shell of his former self, hampered by numerous injuries that limited him a season ago and allowed him to play just 69 games in 2011. But the way Morneau has been swinging over the past month is certainly an encouraging sign for the Twins, who will need similar production from Morneau in 2013 to help them bounce back from another losing season.
And they’ll also need to keep him on the field.
“Health goes a long way,” Gardenhire said. “When you’re not healthy and you’re trying to go out there and you’re playing with something nagging at you, it’s tough in this game. It’s tough enough to be healthy and play the game on an everyday basis. … He went through an awful lot the last couple years, and right now he feels good. Hopefully we can keep it that way.”