Morneau reached a level no Twins hitter had been at in the last 19 years Wednesday, hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning to lead Minnesota to a 4-3 victory over Detroit.
Morneau became the first Twin since Gary Gaetti in 1987 to have 30 homers in a season, and his 101 RBIs make him the first Minnesota player to have 30 homers and 100 RBIs in the same year since Gaetti also accomplished the feat in 1987.
“That was a nice moment for our baseball team,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We had a little ceremony where we gave him the ball after the game. He couldn’t have picked a better time to do it, either.”
Morneau is batting .357 (10-for-28) with two homers and 13 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
Chicago is one-half game back while Boston is 1 1/2 games behind.
Morneau’s big game helped Minnesota to its sixth victory in the last seven games and pulled the Twins to within 8 1/2 games of first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
“That was great to see. Not just for tonight’s game, but he’s a part of Twins history now,” said Twins starter Johan Santana, who improved to 13-5 Wednesday. “We knew we had a chance to win the series and also catch up some, so this was big.”
After a horrid start to the season, Carlos Silva (8-9, 6.37 ERA) has turned things around and will be looking to win his fifth straight decision when he starts for the Twins on Thursday.
Silva began the year 2-6 with an 8.80 ERA before being demoted to the bullpen, where he continued to struggle. But since the All-Star break, the right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 4.40 ERA in five starts.
Silva lost to Toronto (60-54) in his first start of the season on April 6, allowing five hits and six runs in 5 2-3 innings.
The Blue Jays beat Baltimore 4-3 on Wednesday, only the third win in the last 11 games for Toronto, which is 7 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the wild-card race.
The Blue Jays took two of three from the Orioles to claim their first series win since taking three of four from the Yankees from July 20-23.
This series begins a 10-game road trip for the Blue Jays, who have lost five straight away from home.
“We’ve got to come out and take three out of four (against the Twins),” first baseman Lyle Overbay said. “Two and two is just going to get us by. We’ve got to make breaks for ourselves and do the things we’re capable of. We can compete with anybody if we do that.”
Ted Lilly (9-10, 4.20) looks for his first victory since July 17 when he takes the mound for the Blue Jays on Thursday. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in his last three outings and was hit hard by the Yankees on Aug. 2, allowing 10 hits and five runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 loss.
He was scratched from his scheduled start on Monday against Baltimore because of a stiff neck.
Lilly is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in five career starts against Minnesota, but hasn’t faced the Twins since May 17, 2004.