MINNEAPOLIS — Before getting blanked by the Orioles on Sunday, the Minnesota Twins’ offense seemed to finally be finding its groove after a dormant April. Not surprisingly, the M&M Boys had something to do with the resurgence.
In the first month of the season, Minnesota scored just 92 runs, tied for fourth-fewest in all of baseball. Granted, the Twins played a few less games than other teams due to a handful of postponements. Regardless, Minnesota’s offense just wasn’t clicking like it had hoped it would.
That changed when the calendar turned to May. Even with Sunday’s shutout entered into the equation, the Twins have scored 64 runs this month, second most in all of baseball — and trail only the Tampa Bay Rays’ 70 runs in May. Catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau, two former MVPs, have been leading the way for Minnesota’s offense. In 10 games in May, Mauer is batting .463 with 10 doubles and an on-base percentage of .551. Morneau has put up similarly impressive numbers: a .349 average with 13 RBI.
The duo both had three hits in Saturday’s win over Baltimore. Even in Sunday’s 6-0 loss, Mauer went 2-for-3 with a walk and Morneau hit a rocket off the wall in right field for a single.
Clearly, Minnesota’s M&M Boys are seeing the ball well.
“Having the other guys get on for them and let them do their thing and bang the ball around, that’s the way you build your lineup,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We know we can score runs, and finally our offense is starting to really kind of click a little bit here and that’s fun to watch.”
In late April, Mauer endured the worst hitting slump of his career. He went hitless in 21 straight at-bats before finally breaking out of the skid on April 30. Even then, his average was still at .287 at the end of April.
Thanks to his current 11-game that he extended Sunday, Mauer’s average is now up to .341.
“Lately I’m feeling pretty good,” Mauer said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s a long season. You go and hit well and you go into funks. I’m trying to ride this one out as long as I can.”
Mauer has been a doubles machine as of late. He hit a total of five doubles in four games in Boston earlier this week, putting several dents in the Green Monster in left field of Fenway Park. He added two more doubles in Friday’s series opener against Baltimore, another in Saturday’s win and one more Sunday to give him 15 on the season — second in baseball behind Mike Napoli’s 17.
Has Target Field turned into a doubles park for Mauer?
“Well it’s not a homers park for me, I can tell you that,” he said. “In Boston I felt pretty good. It just kind of carried over to here.”
Morneau, too, has endured his ups and downs in the young season. Like Mauer, he reached a low at the end of April when he was batting just .253. But Morneau has currently put together an eight-game hitting streak of his own to raise his average to .285.
Over the past several seasons, Morneau has battled numerous health issues and struggled offensively as a result. He’s now fully healthy, and the last two weeks seem to be an indication of that.
“It’s good to see him start swinging the bat well,” Mauer said of his friend and long-time teammate. “It’s a long season. You have ups and downs. Hopefully when the ups are there you can ride them out pretty long.”
From top to bottom, Minnesota’s lineup has produced in May. Mauer and Morneau have played a big hand in that, but other pieces of the puzzle have started to come together. Prior to Sunday’s shutout, the Twins had scored five or more runs in six straight games dating back to the first game of the Boston series. While at Fenway Park, Minnesota’s offense had a 15-run outburst, its highest-scoring game since scoring 18 runs on Sept. 4 of last year.
During spring and into the early part of the season, the Twins believed this was a lineup that would score enough runs to be competitive in most games. In April, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Led by Mauer and Morneau in the heart of the order, things are changing. Minnesota is now seeing — and believing — that this offense can indeed be a potent one.
“I think guys are just getting comfortable,” said Ryan Doumit, who has three home runs and nine RBI already this month. “There’s too much talent in the lineup for us to go an extended period of time without everybody starting to heat up. With everybody clicking on the same cylinder, I think this offense has the potential to do some pretty special things.”