The Twins scored a season-high 19 runs Monday night and matched a season-high with 20 hits, but if you had to pick the most encouraging development, it was probably Justin Morneau getting a season-high four hits.
Morneau, who had two doubles, extended his hitting streak to 14 games. He was batting .229 when that streak began on June 29, and now he's batting .257.
“He’s got a smile on his face, a pretty good smile,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He pulled one pretty hard [on his fourth-inning single down the first-base line], and had some Ichiros the other way, which is a good thing.”
I’ve never heard that term before, but an Ichiro could be defined as a ball hit to third base by a lefty. Morneau doesn’t quite have Ichiro Suzuki’s speed, but you get the point.
“They’re playing the shift on him, and [Morneau’s] slapping the ball around, taking advantage of how they’re trying to pitch him,” Gardenhire said.
* After lining an RBI single to center in the first inning, Joe Mauer led off the second with a home run down the right-field line, stretching the Twins lead to 8-1.
It was Mauer’s sixth homer of the season and his fourth career homer at Target Field. Most of Mauer’s 90 career home runs have gone to left field, as this was just the second one this season that he’s pulled down the line.
Quibble with that all you want, but he's batting .328/.414/.454 and has now played in 81 games (one shy of last year's mark), with 39 starts at catcher.
* The Twins were concerned about Scott Diamond’s first-half workload -- 113 2/3 innings pitched between Class AAA Rochester and Minnesota -- so they used the All-Star break to give him an 11-day break between starts.
He said he felt strong throughout Monday’s outing, as he tossed 100 pitches in sweltering heat, allowing five runs on nine hits in six innings.
“Physically I felt great,” Diamond said. “That time off definitely helped.”
* Asked which of his plays was tougher -- the sliding catch to rob Steve Tolleson in the sixth, or the leaping catch into the center-field wall to rob J.J. Hardy in the seventh -- Denard Span gave an honest answer.
“The J.J. one because I don’t do that too often," he said. "Normally I get to the wall, and I get a little stage fright, a little scared. Sliding catches -- I do that more often. So that was definitely one that I liked the best out of the two.”
Gardenhire made a note of another play Span should have made. In the third inning, Adam Jones hit a pop fly that dropped between Span and left fielder Josh Willingham, with nobody taking charge.
"I think [Span] was pretty upset with himself on that one," Gardenhire said. "He knows a center fielder most of the time catches that. But better than having a collision. He had some good swings and made some big plays out there.”