MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Morneau provided a reminder Sunday of what he can do when he is healthy.
After injuries caused the former AL MVP to miss all or most of the past three Septembers, Morneau is finally finishing a season in good health. And his two home runs certainly were the difference as the Minnesota Twins beat Cleveland 8-7.
When Morneau stepped into the batter’s box in the ninth inning against reliever Vinnie Pestano, he was looking for something he could drive.
When Pestano (3-2) threw an inside fastball, Morneau turned on the pitch and hit it just inside the right-field foul pole for his 19th homer of the season.
Morneau, who has four two-homer games this season, also hit a two-run shot to right in the third.
“I faced him a couple nights ago, he jammed me, so I had a feeling he might try to come in there again,” Morneau said. “And he did and left it over the plate just a little bit. I just kept it fair enough and we get to jump up and down and have fun.”
Cleveland manager Manny Acta summed up the game-winner pretty simply: “It left the yard pretty quick.”
The Twins have won two in a row and are now 5-4 in September. The victory also moved Minnesota within one game of Cleveland in an attempt to get out of last place in the AL Central.
While that isn’t close to being in a pennant race, Morneau does take a little encouragement from being able to be on the field at the end of the year after having recent seasons ended by concussions and a wrist injury.
“The last couple years have been a little frustrating, but hopefully this is the start of good things to come in September,” Morneau said. “Hopefully we get off to a better start as a team next year and give ourselves a little better chance to play pennant-chase baseball in September.”
Morneau’s first homer of the game might have been the hardest home run he has hit at Target Field. The ball bounced on the concrete plaza beyond the right-field seats and bounded toward downtown Minneapolis.
“He hit that one really well, that was a bomb,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He got all the way through that ball and it really traveled. And the last one was a laser. That ball was really hit hard, too.”
The first homer, off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber, was on a changeup that got too much of the plate.
“It was an 0-2 pitch that if you asked him, he’d probably say he made a mistake on it,” Morneau said. “You have to take advantage of those mistakes, and he’s got pretty good stuff, so I took advantage and ended up getting to jog around the bases which is always fun.”
Cleveland had an opportunity to take the lead in the ninth when Matt LaPorta singled and moved to second on the first out of the inning. However, neither Carlos Santana nor Russ Canzler could drive in the go-ahead run off Brian Duensing (4-2), who pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory for the Twins.
Santana had three hits, including a home run, and scored twice for Cleveland. Brent Lillibridge and Michael Brantley each scored a pair of runs for the Indians.
Minnesota took a 7-6 lead in the seventh when Chris Parmalee hit a bases-loaded single through the right side of the infield, scoring Jamey Carroll and Joe Mauer.
Mauer raised his batting average to .317 by getting three hits — a single, double and triple — while also scoring twice.
NOTES: Gardenhire indicated before the game that he is growing more comfortable with Glen Perkins serving as the team’s closer both for the rest of the season and into 2013. Perkins had served as Minnesota’s primary eighth inning pitcher, but his past six appearances have all come in the ninth inning. He also has recorded 11 saves this season. … OF Josh Willingham was not in the Twins lineup, but Gardenhire said it was simply about giving him rest. Willingham, who has been limited to a DH role recently because of a hamstring injury, is expected to return to left field on Monday. … RHP Justin Masterson (11-12, 4.84) will make his 30th start of the season for Cleveland in Monday’s series finale. Masterson has won four of his last six decisions and is 9-6 over his last 15 decisions since June 15. RHP Samuel Deduno (5-3, 3.66) is scheduled to counter for Minnesota. Deduno is 1-0 with a 4.09 in two previous starts this season against Cleveland. … Cleveland activated infielder Lonnie Chisenhall from the 60-day disabled list before the game. Chisenhall has missed more than two months after having a bone in his right forearm broken by a pitch from Jake Arrieta in a June 29 game at Baltimore.
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