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."