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04/10/08 1:02 AM ET
Twins bust it open early on for Baker
Pair of five-run innings seals right-hander's second victory
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Before Wednesday night's game against the White Sox, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked about the lack of home runs his club had hit so far this season, having totaled just three in their first eight games. "I think we have people capable of hitting home runs and you would hope that we should be able to put some balls in the seats," Gardenhire said. "All we're looking for is some more consistent swings throughout the lineup. We've had a guy hot here and there. We haven't really clicked as an offense yet." A few hours later, they finally did. The Twins broke out of their offensive slump on Wednesday night, recording season-highs in runs (12) and hits (13), as they pulled off a 12-5 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. "We talked about that earlier in the day, scoring some runs and not having to win 3-2 and being in tight games," Gardenhire said. "We gave ourselves a little bit of a breather there as far as scoring some runs. And that's a good thing." Prior to Wednesday's victory, the most runs the Twins had scored in a game was six and the most hits had been 10. But this was a scoring binge that started early for the Twins. White Sox starter John Danks gave up two runs in the first inning, one on an RBI single by Delmon Young and another on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Jason Kubel. Taking an early lead was certainly helpful, but the real damage came when the Twins batted around in two separate innings. It happened in the third inning when the club tagged Danks for five runs. The left-hander gave up five hits and one walk but recorded just one out in the inning, striking out Young, before he was replaced by right-hander Nick Masset. "He was behind in the count, and couldn't hit the spots," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Danks. "When you have that problem with those guys, they are going to put the ball in play. They are not going to strike out. They are not going to miss because that's not a strikeout team." The Twins may have been able to accrue an early 7-0 lead, but the White Sox didn't lay down quite so easily. On a cold night with temperatures dipping into the 30s, Twins starter Scott Baker had to work to keep some of his pitches down. And when he missed, Chicago took advantage. After holding the White Sox quiet in the first two innings, Baker (2-0) gave up a solo homer in each of the next three. All of a sudden the lead had shrunk and considering the way the White Sox had been going so far this season, it looked a tad worrisome. That's when the Twins put together their second five-run inning of the game, thanks in large part to Kubel hitting the third grand slam of his career. The homer came after Masset issued back-to-back, two-out walks to load the bases before facing Kubel. The outfielder then belted the first pitch he saw 409-feet over the right-field fence to make it an 11-3 game. And with the grand slam went any shot of a Chicago comeback. "He's in the lineup to hit," Gardenhire said of Kubel. "I've always said I really believe this guy can hit. He's going to get plenty of opportunities this year. He got 450 at-bats last year, I think, and he's going to get more than that this year. He's healthy from his knee problems now and it's time to get his at-bats and go." There seems to be something special about U.S. Cellular Field for Kubel as his last grand slam also came at the same ballpark. It happened on July 6 last season in the first game of a doubleheader between the two clubs. "I love this place," Kubel said. "I feel like I can pretty much go anywhere in this field." The Twins added one more run in the sixth courtesy of back-to-back doubles by Craig Monroe and Mike Lamb. Brian Bass then replaced Baker to start the bottom of the sixth as he pitched four innings, allowing just one earned run, to pick up his first Major League save. And while it was fun for the offense to finally break out, the pitching staff seemed to appreciate the effort just as much. "It seemed like we did everything right offensively," Baker said. "We had the clutch hits and the big hits. As a pitcher, that really does make you feel a ton better. It does make for some long innings when it's chilly and it's tough staying loose, but I'll take that."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.