A manager is constantly taking his team’s pulse, and Paul Molitor is encouraged by what he’s sensing about the Twins.
“I feel a little lightened mood, offensively,” Molitor said.
The Twins sent a signal that their lack of offense in June is over Friday night, when they eased their way to a 7-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game interleague series at Target Field.
Trevor Plouffe led the way by going 2-for-4 with four RBI. But it wasn’t just Plouffe on Friday, as the Twins collected six doubles and a triple and knocked Cubs righthander Kyle Kendricks out of the game in the sixth inning.
Offense has been hard to come by this month. After averaging 5.1 runs per game in their 20-7 May, the Twins are at 3.0 per game in June even with Friday’s outburst, having scored three or fewer runs in 13 of their 18 games.
The Twins might not be all the way back — they were only 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position Friday — but they got the most out of the hits they did get.
“Offensively, that was a big night for us,” Molitor said. “We haven’t had many games as of late where we put many runs on the board. So we took advantage of a misplay early and had some big hits with men in scoring position, which we haven’t done a lot of lately. So it was a good all-around game for us.”
The support enabled Twins righthander Phil Hughes to cruise for eight innings and improve to 5-6. He tinkered with his changeup, a pitch the Twins want him to use more.
“You’re looking to get on the board early and it helps you to catch your breath and relax a little bit,” said Hughes, who lowered his ERA to 4.47. “I don’t think I had to pitch out of the stretch after the second inning, so it gives you some confidence and some momentum with that, too.”
The Twins loaded the bases in the first inning on singles by Brian Dozier, Eddie Rosario and Joe Mauer, then watched the Cubs give them two runs. Plouffe hit a potential double-play grounder to shortstop Starlin Castro, who butchered the ball, enabling Dozier to score and Plouffe to reach. Then Castro sulked about his mistake long enough for Rosario to dash home and make it 2-0.
Plouffe’s third-inning double then scored Rosario, but Anthony Rizzo hit the first of his two home runs to pull the Cubs within 3-1 in the fourth. Plouffe responded with a two-run double to left-center in the fifth, and the Twins tacked on two more runs in the sixth.
Hughes didn’t put another batter on base after the homer, retiring the final 15 Cubs he faced. In eight innings, he gave up one run on two hits with no walks.
The Twins said they felt their comeback 2-1 victory over the Cardinals — sparked by home runs from Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas — was what they needed to relax and produce at the plate. For one night, they were right.
“We struggled for a couple weeks now so we’re over struggling,” Plouffe said. “We want to score some runs.”