OAKLAND, CALIF. - Either Justin Morneau is starting to feel better at the plate or he's really fired up about his Vancouver Canucks' 2-0 lead in the NHL Western Conference finals.
The big Canadian is starting to get his swing in sync, as he went 3-for-5 with a homer, double and two RBI on Thursday during the Twins' 11-1 win over the Athletics.
Over the past 10 games, Morneau is batting .350 with six extra-base hits. Twins manger Ron Gardenhire said Morneau is squaring up the ball better.
"He's worked really, really hard on staying on the ball, staying through the ball, using the middle part of the field instead of trying to pull, pull, pull," Gardenhire said. "He's had injuries, he's had a neck injury. He's been trying to play because we've had so many other guys hurt.''
Morneau, bugged by a sore neck/shoulder injury, admitted that he had a cortisone shot May 12, the second shot he's received in that area this year.
Is it good now?
"It's good enough," he said.
Morneau also has battled fatigue stemming from his case of the flu last month as well as being unable to work out the way he wanted to during the offseason as he recovered from the July 7 concussion that cost him the second half of the season.
Concussion recoverywise, he said he rarely worries about it now. Strengthwise, he's almost at the point where he's working out as much as he usually does during a season.
Standingswise, he's not happy. And he won't concede the season.
"We have a lot of very high expectations for ourselves, as there should be," he said. "It's the highest payroll this franchise has ever had. You can say what you want about the injuries, but we have enough guys here to compete and to win and play well.
"We still believe in ourselves. We obviously have a long road ahead of us, but there's no reason we can't climb into the race."Stelmaszek gets ink
Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek is mentioned in the book "Nobody's Perfect" about the perfect game bid then-Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga made last year before a bad call by first base umpire Jim Joyce took it all away.
In the book, Joyce discusses his rise through the minors but how, even as a Class A umpire in 1979, he still had dreams of being a pitcher. Stelmaszek, then the manager at Wisconsin Rapids, had developed a good relationship with Joyce. So he took him out for beers one night and told him he had been out of the game too long and that it wasn't going to happen.
"Five or six beers in, I began to take his point,'' Joyce said in the book.
Stelmaszek read the passage before Thursday's game against the A's and said everything was true. "Jim is a really good guy,'' he said.Etc.
• Righthander Nick Blackburn gave up one earned run over seven innings on five hits. He has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his past four starts.
• Danny Valencia ended a 0-for-19 streak with an RBI double in the eighth.
• Before Rene Rivera homered in the second inning, the Twins were the only team without a homer from the position.
• Oakland starter Tyson Ross left the game after one batter (seven pitches) with a left oblique strain. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in Athletics history that a starter took a loss while facing just one batter.
• With the win and Houston's loss Thursday, the 15-27 Twins no longer have the worst record in baseball.