Kubel hits for cycle, rallies Twins past Halos
Jason Kubel's ear-to-ear smile was just as rare as the feat that prompted it.
Kubel has finally taught himself how to relax in his third season as a regular for Minnesota, and this was a fine way to loosen up: Hitting for the cycle with a go-ahead grand slam.
Kubel completed the ninth cycle in Twins history in dramatic fashion to cap a seven-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning and lift Minnesota past the Los Angeles Angels 11-9 on Friday night.
Jason Bulger (0-1) intentionally walked Justin Morneau to load the bases, a move that will fire any batter up. But Kubel stayed calm and let a curveball go by for strike one.
The next one was right where he wanted it, and it landed in the upper deck.
"They're going to have to start respecting him, man, as a hitter," said Denard Span, whose two-run double cut the Angels' lead to 9-7. "The guy had 20 home runs last year, but keep walking Morneau and pitch to him and you'll get your feelings hurt."
Kubel singled, doubled and tripled in his first three at-bats before striking out with a runner on third in the seventh. With Los Angeles leading 9-4, Scot Shields relieved Jose Arredondo with one out in the eighth and gave up an RBI single to Mike Redmond. He walked Nick Punto to load the bases before Span's double.
Bulger entered and struck out Brendan Harris, who earlier homered, but Kubel made the Angels pay for putting Morneau on. The 26-year-old outfielder was frustrated with himself for not doing more to help out the lineup, now that he's been hitting behind the 2006 AL MVP, but he maintained a level head once he saw what the Angels were doing.
"It used to really fire me up, and I used to get myself out," said the normally stone-faced Kubel. "So I just stayed calm and just knew what the circumstances were and just went from there."
Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his second save, punctuating a wild night at the Metrodome that started with 7 1/2 innings of more bad baseball by the home team.
The Twins have been behind in all 12 games, rallying to win five, while keeping manager Ron Gardenhire plenty busy. He's written out 12 different lineups and made almost a month's worth of trips to the mound this week with his pitching staff struggling to get in a groove.
Matt Guerrier (1-0) picked up the victory in relief after having a hand in a five-run, two-out rally by the Angels in the seventh that gave them an 8-3 lead. The Twins were beat up by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the week, and after Thursday's lopsided loss Gardenhire urged his players to stay positive and stay together.
"To come back and get that win after being down like that, that's exactly what we talked about last night," Gardenhire said. "There's no quit. These guys are going to play. It's a nine-inning ballgame, and they played a full nine."
Nick Blackburn allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings for Minnesota.
Angels starter Dustin Moseley gave up two runs in three innings before elbow stiffness ended his night. He's been filling a rotation spot while Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana recover from injuries. The biggest blow came before the game, though, when cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a torn muscle in his chest.
"It's part of baseball," third baseman Chone Figgins said. "That's why you have guys in the minor leagues. That's why you have guys on the bench. They help the team get the team on track."
Lackey (forearm) and Santana (elbow) are feeling great, manager Mike Scioscia said, after their most recent bullpen sessions and will throw again this weekend. They're still on track to be back next month. Escobar (shoulder) might be a little longer. ... New reliever Juan Morillo joined Minnesota during the game. Kubel and Delmon Young were greeting him in the clubhouse afterward, when Young pointed a thumb toward Kubel and said, "He's the hero." ... This was only the fourth cycle in the Metrodome's 28-year history. The others: Kirby Puckett in 1986, Paul Molitor in 1991 for the Milwaukee Brewers, and Travis Hafner in 2003 for the Cleveland Indians.