Twins rip Rangers; gain on White Sox
Morneau knocks in five as Minnesota pounds four homers
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers have been one of the most potent offenses in baseball this season. So it came as no surprise that it was Texas' power-hitting sluggers who were touted coming into a three-game series with Minnesota out of the All-Star break.But in two blowout victories in the first two contests of the series, it's been the Twins -- not the Rangers -- who have put on an offensive show. Minnesota recorded a season-high 14 runs and had 16 hits in a 14-2 victory over Texas on Saturday night at the Metrodome. The win put the Twins a half-game behind the White Sox in the American League Central. "It's just one of those things. The offense snowballs, everybody gets going and things start flying around the field," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was just all the way up and down the lineup. Everybody got to be a part of it. It took a little bit to get going, but we had a lot of good at-bats." The offensive blowout didn't occur until late in the game and it started when Rangers skipper Ron Washington faced a difficult challenge in the fifth inning with the Twins holding a 3-2 lead. With two outs and runners on second and third, Washington had the choice to pitch to either Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau. In previous seasons, Gardenhire had kept the two lefties separated in the lineup in order to perhaps prevent both from facing a difficult left-handed reliever. But with the way his lineup was shaking out early in the year because of injuries, he's decided to keep Mauer and Morneau back to back. "I was really tired of trying to put somebody between them, so let [the opponent] make the decision on who they want to pitch to," Gardenhire said. Mauer had already stung the Rangers in his first at-bat of the night, belting a solo home run to center field in the first inning. So after Rangers starter Matt Harrington missed with his first two pitches in the at-bat, failing to get Mauer to chase, the left-hander intentionally walked the catcher to load the bases. Morneau seemed eager for the opportunity to hit in the situation, as he quickly stepped into the batter's box. And he took advantage, flipping a 1-2 pitch from Harrison the opposite way into deep left-center field. It resulted in a three-run double that extended the Twins' lead and marked the start of the club's offensive resurgence. It was the start of a five-RBI night for Morneau. He followed up the double with a two-run homer to right-center field in the sixth, capping off a six-run inning for the Twins. Morneau's homer was one of the club's four in the game, their most since tallying six homers on July 6, 2007, at the Chicago White Sox. But the long ball by the reigning Home Run Derby champion was not the most spectacular of the game, let alone the inning. Leading off the sixth, Delmon Young belted the first pitch he saw from Harrington deep into center field. The high, towering shot reached nearly 20 rows up into a section of seats just slightly left of dead-center field. The solo homer was announced to have traveled 432 feet, but his teammates were skeptical of that number. "[Jason Kubel] and I were talking about that in the dugout, and we said that has to be at least 450 or 460 feet," Morneau said. "You don't see too many balls in this ballpark hit up there into those seats. That's a pretty good showing on his bobblehead day." Young is 7-for-9 in his last two games. His three hits on Saturday were all pull shots to left field, which came after he delivered nearly all of his hits on the previous night to right field. "If they come in, I'll pull, and if they go away, I'll just go away," Young said. "No reason to go inside-out on balls that are in and pull balls that are away. You'll just end up 0-for-10. ... If you go with the pitch they give you, your success rate will be higher." The Twins may have had offensive success, but the Rangers struggled once again to get anything going. One night after the Twins handed the Rangers their first shutout of the season, starter Livan Hernandez held Texas to just two runs on five hits over seven outings. The lone runs he allowed came on a two-run homer by Rangers first baseman Chris Davis in the second inning. And in the first two contests between the two clubs, the Rangers have managed to tally just eight hits off the Twins' pitching staff. "It's a shock to some people that we have been able to hold them down, but not really a shocker to me because I've seen them pitch all year," Young said. "People don't expect [Texas] to only have two runs in 18 innings. But Livan and those guys have been coming out there and doing what they do, getting guys to just miss pitches and get outs." For Hernandez, the win improved his record at the Metrodome to 8-1 this season and gave him his 10th victory of the year. It's an accomplishment that certainly means a lot to the veteran pitcher, who now has recorded 10 or more wins in 10 of his 11 full seasons in the big leagues. "Always my career is better in the second half," Hernandez said. "So we'll see what happens." Hernandez reached the number despite having a 5.44 ERA in the first half. With Francisco Liriano pushing for a callup at Triple-A Rochester and making news of his displeasure, Hernandez has been the name brought up most to be pushed out of the rotation. The two pitchers share an agent, and Hernandez was asked when he thinks Liriano might get a callup. "He's one of my best friends," Hernandez said. "He's pitched good. He's really nasty right there. The situation is not easy right now. Everybody is pitching good. Right now, I think nothing is going to happen"
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.