Morneau delivers in big spot

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 24, 2011 - 1:03 AM

Back from illness, he hit a two-run single after Cleveland loaded the bases to pitch to him.

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Denard Span was at second base Saturday when Cleveland decided to intentionally walk Jason Kubel, loading the bases for the Twins' recently ailing cleanup hitter, Justin Morneau.

Span glanced at Orlando Cabrera, the former Twin who patrols second base for the Indians.

"I told Cabrera, '[Morneau's] about to bust something right here,' " Span said.

Span said he and Cabrera couldn't recall any team intentionally walking a hitter other than Joe Mauer to face Morneau.

"They did, and he gave them what they asked for," Span said.

The Twins had 13 hits in their 10-3 victory, but Morneau's two-run, fifth-inning single resonated the loudest.

It came with the Twins leading 3-1 in the fifth inning, and few could blame Cleveland manager Manny Acta for intentionally walking Kubel. Batting third in manager Ron Gardenhire's patchwork lineup, Kubel had smashed a two-run double in his previous at-bat and owns a .368 career average against Fausto Carmona.

"In that situation, you've got a guy with a really good sinker, so they're trying to get a ground ball and get [a double play]," Kubel said.

Playing his first game in seven days, Morneau looked like an easy mark. He had dropped about 10 pounds because of a viral infection. Hitless in his first two at-bats, he was batting .200 (11-for-55) with three RBI.

But Morneau could feel the adrenaline rush as his walk-up song, AC/DC's "Rock & Roll Ain't Noise Pollution," echoed through Target Field.

"I heard a good quote from [former National League MVP] Larry Walker the other day," Morneau said. "He said, 'The only stat I was worried about was getting a hit in my next at-bat.'

"I think that comes with experience. You can be 0-for-4 and end the game with a walk-off hit, and it's a great game."

When this one ended, Acta lamented Carmona's pitch selection. Instead of throwing his 92-mile-per-hour sinker to Morneau, Carmona offered an 84-mph changeup, practically doing a favor for a hitter who had barely swung a bat all week.

Morneau hit that one to right-center and added a hard single up the middle in his final at-bat to finish 2-for-5.

"I was surprised with how comfortable I felt," he said. "First at-bat, I saw some pitches and hit a ball pretty good, flew out to [deep left field] and said, 'I guess I'm going to be all right.'"

The entire Twins lineup had reason to feel good. Carmona (1-3) had posted a 1.25 ERA over his previous three starts but gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks over five innings.

No. 9 hitter Alexi Casilla went 2-for-4, and at the top of the order, Span and Jason Repko combined to go 4-for-7 with two walks. That trio scored six runs, more than the Twins had scored as a team in any game this season.

Brian Duensing (2-0) was rewarded for holding Cleveland to one run on five hits over seven innings. The Twins are 8-12, but this was their first victory by more than two runs.

"Our pitchers have been giving us a chance to win pretty much every day, so it's about time we score some runs," Morneau said. "Hopefully this will give everybody the confidence boost they need to put it all together and this team will start hitting the way we're capable of."

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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