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Morneau book-ends Twins win over Rays

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Twins overcome rare blown save by Joe Nathan to beat Rays 4-3.

Justin Morneau homered in the first and hit into a game winning fielders choice with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to power the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

The Twins led 3-2 going into the ninth inning, and brought in Mr. Automatic, Joe Nathan, who gave up a pinch hit home run to Ben Zobrist on the first pitch. Nathan continued to struggle with rust (he's only thrown 7 innings this year and he hasn't pitched since Friday), but managed to get through the top of the ninth without letting the Rays gain the lead.

The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning. Rays managerJoe Maddon brought in an extra infielder to try to create a double play. Justin Morneau appeared to oblige him with a hard grounder to second. But Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura let the drive bounce off his chest before shoveling it to short stop Jason Bartlett. The extra bobble allowed the hustling Morneau to beat the relay. The fielders' choice scored Jose Morales from third, and he mimiced first base umpire Bruce Dreckman's safe call as he crossed home plate with the winning run.

"It's the kind of thing where I have to stay within myself to keep from tripping over my own feet," Morneau told FSN North's Robby Incmikoski after the game about his winning the game with his speed.

Francisco Liriano pitched just his second quality start in five outings on the season, working 6 2/3 innings and leaving with a 3-2 lead. Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares shut down the Rays for an inning and a third--Mijares striking out the middle of the Rays line-up--to turn it over to Nathan in the ninth.

Stars:

* Jose Morales had two more hits, scored the game-winning run, and held onto the ball during a tough collision at home plate to cut down a Rays run.

** Jose Mijares was unhittable in his inning of work, striking out Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Willy Aybar after Carl Crawford coaxed a walk to lead off the inning.

*** Justin Morneau homered to left center with a man aboard in the first and hustled down the line to beat out a potential double play in the ninth, driving in three of the four Twins runs.

Duds:

# Delmon Young pinch ran for Jason Kubel and later made the third out at third base trying to steal with one of the Twins hottest hitters at the plate in a one-run game.

## Nick Punto struck out looking on a pitch down the middle early in the game and later grounded into a key double play on the first pitch to kill another rally. He also played very sloppy in the field, though the plays didn't hurt as much as his poor hitting.

### Joe Nathan had no zip on his fastball and turned into a nibbler as a result. He was lucky to avoid the loss.

Observations:

  • Every game Morales plays, he makes the Twins' roster decision upon Joe Mauer's return much tougher. I hope they don't carry three catchers. But if Mike Redmond is too sore to play much at all, they should put him on the DL when they activate Mauer. He's played twice in the last week.
  • Liriano might be one of those guys who needs a half dozen starts to smooth out his mechanics. He seemed to calm down out there tonight and hit his spots more, though he was effectively wild.
  • I could see Jason Kubel getting more time in left field when Mauer returns and needs to DH three times a week for the first few weeks. He looked fine out there--certainly no worse than Delmon Young.