Seattle – Every time Twins designated hitter Kendrys Morales has come to the plate in this series, he has been booed like a traitor.
He played with the Mariners in 2013 and elected to go into free agency rather than accept their qualifying offer of $12 million. The Mariners could use some offense now, and ol’ Kendrys could have been ready to rake at the beginning of the season.
Instead, he had to wait until after the draft to sign with the Twins, when teams no longer had to lose a draft pick as compensation. After a fast start, he has looked rather rusty in recent weeks. But Safeco Field is bringing back old memories.
Morales has hit in every game this series, and he was especially good Wednesday night, driving in three runs as the Twins beat the Mariners 8-1. The Twins have won two of three games in the series, with the finale on Thursday night.
“I think he’s getting the barrel [of the bat] out there pretty good,’’ Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Looks like his timing is getting there where he’s getting the bat head through. He put some really nice swings out there. That’s going to be big for us.’’
The Twins enjoyed plenty of early offense, bolting to an 8-0 lead, and Morales was involved in every big inning.
He hit a two-out RBI double to center in the first inning, enabling Brian Dozier to score from second. The Twins added four more runs in the second, two on Chris Colabello’s double, one on Sam Fuld’s single and one on a sacrifice fly by Morales.
Morales batted with bases loaded in the fourth and sent a hard grounder down the line that got under Logan Morrison’s glove for an error — the Twins were looking into getting it changed to a hit. Two runs scored to give the Twins a 7-0 lead, and another scored on Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly. Three RBI in four innings for Morales is a full day’s work. Morales entered the series batting .216, but he was 4-for-11 with three RBI in three games to lift his average to .230. His three RBI ties his single-game high since joining the Twins.
“Now that it is nice and warm and the roof is open, it is nice,” said Morales, who hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBI for the Mariners last season. “Earlier in the year when it is cold, it is not so good.”
Other Twins hitters were able see why Morales liked hitting in Safeco, because the Twins had eight runs on seven hits through the first five innings.
“We finally put some runs on the board,’’ Gardenhire said. “… We got some good at-bats, got some walks, got some big hits when we had to.’’
Righthander Kyle Gibson appreciated the run support. He pitched six innings and improved to 8-7. Gibson lasted just two innings in his last start on Friday against the Yankees, so he needed the bounce-back outing. In six innings, he gave up seven hits and walked one while striking out three, lowering his ERA to 3.92.
“Guys are stepping up,’’ Gardenhire said of his starters. “I don’t think [Gibson] had his best stuff. He had to work for it today.’’
Morales was surrounded by Seattle media this week as he made his first visit since leaving the club. Most of the questions centered on him turning down a reported three-year, $30 million offer, then rejecting the qualifying offer to become a free agent.
“It was going to be tough to look for another job,” he said through interpreter Bobby Cuellar, “but in my heart I just didn’t really want to come back here and be in the same spot. I was taking chances to see maybe something would get better.”
When asked about how he’s fitting with his new club, Morales cracked a smile.
“I’ve had a good time,” he said. “This is a young team, aggressive play, and hopefully we can keep fighting and get this thing going a little better.’’