Twins’ Morneau, Plouffe return to old form

Justin Morneau’s wrist appears to be just fine.

In his second game back from the disabled list after missing time with a sore left wrist, Morneau hit his fifth home run of the season and drove in three runs to help the Minnesota Twins sweep a two-game series Thursday against the Tigers with a 4-3 win in Detroit.

After reaching on an infield single in the first inning against Tigers starter Doug Fister, Morneau hit a two-run homer in the top of the third to put Minnesota ahead 2-0 early. Morneau jumped at the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball over the plate, and drove it to left-center field.

“I was just trying to be aggressive. He’s usually around the plate. He’s got pretty good sink,” Morneau said of Fister. “… He ends up leaving a fastball up and I put a good swing on it and got just enough of it to get over the fence. We leave here in a good mood, getaway day with a series win.”

It was the first homer surrendered by Fister this season. It was also the first home run Morneau hit to the opposite field this season. His previous four homers all went to right or right-center field. Morneau’s four home runs in his injury-shortened 2011 season were also all to right field.

“Him driving the ball the other way is huge,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He starts getting a little pull happy at times. If he’s staying on the ball like that and gets the barrel on it, that’s all he has to do is get a nice swing on it and the ball will fly like that.

“Going opposite field was huge for us, and for him. To see a big smile on the big Canuck’s face is a good thing.”

The home run came one night after Morneau went 1-for-5 with a double in his first game back from the DL. He seemed much more comfortable Thursday, as he finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run.

In Wednesday’s series opener, Morneau was back at first base. Thursday, he was Minnesota’s designated hitter. Regardless of what position he was playing, Morneau was just happy to be back in the lineup after missing time with the wrist injury.

“The first at-bat (Wednesday), I looked up at the radar gun and I was surprised it didn’t say 115 mph,” Morneau said. “The second at-bat helped me a lot. I went 3-2, fouled off a couple pitches. I saw quite a few pitches, and I think that allowed me to get more comfortable and let me get — I wouldn’t say locked in, but see the ball a little bit better and more comfortable and kind of carry it over to today.”

Just getting back on the field meant it was a successful series for Morneau, but Thursday’s home run and three RBI certainly made it a bit better. And like it was for Morneau, the two-game trip to Detroit was also a bit of a confidence builder for outfielder Trevor Plouffe. No Twins batter had been slumping quite like Plouffe, who entered the series batting just .133 in 22 games.

Yet with one swing of the bat Wednesday, a weight seemed to be lifted off Plouffe’s shoulders as he connected for a two-run home run in the ninth inning against Detroit to help the Twins win 11-7.

One day later, Plouffe went deep again. He followed Morneau’s two-run shot with a solo homer off Fister. After fouling off the first pitch from Fister, Plouffe jumped on an 89 mph fastball and put it in the left field seats for his second home run in his last three at-bats. He was all smiles in the Twins dugout after the solo blast Thursday.

“A big home run by (Morneau), and then Plouffe steps up and bangs another one and gets everybody kind of flowing through there,” Gardenhire said. “… Fister out there, he’s tough. We knew that going in.”

Thanks to the bats of Morneau and Plouffe, the Twins are now riding a two-game wining streak, just the second time they’ve won two in a row this season and the first time since April 11-12. If Morneau and Plouffe can continue to boost the offense, it would be a lift to a Minnesota team that is now 12-26 after Thursday’s win.

“There’s some confidence coming through this clubhouse,” Gardenhire said. “It’s fun. These guys are starting to see it’s pretty fun winning games. Hopefully we’ll carry it from there.”

Kevin Gorg contributed to this report.

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