(AP) — With runners at the corners and one out in the fifth inning, Indians manager Manny Acta decided to have Fausto Carmona intentionally walk .319-hitting Jason Kubel to face Justin Morneau, who was playing for the first time in six games after a nasty bout with the flu.
Acta expected his big right-hander to lean on his heavy sinker against Morneau, hopefully inducing an inning-ending double play.
What he got was an entirely different approach.
Morneau lined a changeup into center field for a big two-run single to help the Minnesota Twins break out of a season-long offensive slump in a 10-3 victory over Cleveland on Saturday.
Morneau had been sidelined for the last week and was relieved when Friday night’s series opener was rained out to give him an extra day of rest. Then Carmona took it easy on him in the most important at-bat of the game.
“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.”
Carmona (1-3) gave up six runs on seven hits and walked four in five innings. Grady Sizemore hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Dusty Hughes, but the game was already out of reach by then.
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.
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.
“Right now, a couple of (Twins) aren’t on top of their game and we were pitching them like they were in midseason form and their hot,” Acta said. “I just felt that we didn’t attack them properly.”
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 was trying to throw first pitch strikes,” Carmona said. “I thought I was aggressive enough.”
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.
Carmona gave up 10 runs in three innings in his first start of the season, but had only given up three earned runs over 21 2-3 innings in his previous three outings. But the Indians’ difficulties with the Twins continued, and they dropped their sixth straight to Minnesota.
“We come out and we respect everybody, but we don’t fear anybody,” Acta said. “You have to respect people. We know they are good, but these kids they go after it. We beat a couple of good teams last week.”
NOTES: Indians reliever Chad Durbin gave up four runs on four hits — including a two-run homer to Valencia in the seventh — in two inning. … 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.