Justin Morneau felt solid contact, watched the ball reach the Target Field stands and heard fans stand up and cheer for his first home run in nearly two months when his two-run shot in the sixth inning Wednesday provided a needed cushion in the Twins’ 7-4 victory over the White Sox.
Surely, his teammates would join in. But Morneau reached the dugout and found silence.
“A big guy like that, took him that long to hit a home run,” Twins righthander Kevin Correia said. “We gave him the cold shoulder.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire orchestrated the non-movement. So Morneau began to high-five the air.
“I had a lot of imaginary friends there,” Morneau said. “I’ve seen that done a few times and never had that done to me, so it’s just the reaction. Stand there and look like an idiot or high-five the air like an idiot. That was fun.”
Eventually, teammates rushed toward him to celebrate his home run. Morneau had gone 189 plate appearances without hitting a home run before connecting off White Sox reliever Deunte Heath for his third home run of the season. Everyone has been waiting for the first baseman to get his power game working again, and Morneau hopes it’s the start of a streak.
“I’ve been working hard to try to find that swing and just continue to try and have good at-bats,” Morneau said. “For the most part, I have been able to do that. Hopefully home runs will start to come more consistently.”
Morneau’s blast finished off a White Sox team that probably liked its chances with lefthander Chris Sale starting on the mound. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball and a pure terror for lefthanded hitters to handle, holding them to a .075 batting average.
Sale hasn’t been your ordinary lefty, but he sure looked it once the Twins were done with him.
Brian Dozier made Gardenhire look like a genius, getting on base four times and hitting a three-run homer in the leadoff spot. That homer came in the second inning as the Twins literally pelted Sale.
With the Twins down 1-0 on Alejandro De Aza’s leadoff homer, Oswaldo Arcia smacked a comebacker that hit Sale’s, glove, then his left shoulder, then his chin. White Sox trainers came to the mound to check on him, but he remained in the game. After a walk to Clete Thomas — only the fourth lefthanded hitter to draw a walk off him all season — Sale got Pedro Florimon to ground out to first. Florimon bumped Sale, who was covering first base, as he crossed the bag. Sale needed to be checked on again, as he picked up a knock on his left leg. He stayed in the game, and Dozier finished off the punishing inning with a three-run blast to left.
Trevor Plouffe added an RBI single in the third. The Twins added three runs in the sixth, including Morneau’s homer, to take a 7-1 lead.
Correia (6-4) went 6⅔ innings to win for the first time this month. Sale (5-6) suffered his second shortest outing of the season.
The Twins savored their victory over a top pitcher — but were happier for Morneau, who can make things easier for them with one swing.
“He’s been driving in runs and producing, but Morny is used to seeing the ball go into the seats,” Gardenhire said. “And there was a big smile on his face after the little silent treatment in the dugout. That was kind of fun.”