Justin Morneau’s play to start the season has been even better than in his AL MVP season of 2006. His road success is a big reason why.
The first baseman tries to help the Minnesota Twins conclude their nine-game trip with a victory over the Texas Rangers when the teams meet in the deciding contest of their three-game set on Wednesday afternoon.
Morneau went 3-for-4 with two homers and a season-high five RBIs in a 7-1 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday. He is batting .285 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs through 45 games, a bump from his .242 average with 10 homers and 36 RBIs at the same point in 2006.
The reigning AL MVP is hitting .318 in 22 road games this year, 65 points higher than his average in 23 home contests. Morneau, who started at designated hitter instead of first base on Tuesday, is batting .425 against the Rangers (18-28) with five homers and 16 RBIs since the beginning of last season.
“I don’t like to DH but after my first at-bat, I was able to relax,” Morneau said. “It was a pretty fun day.”
He’ll now try lead the Twins (21-24) to back-to-back series wins for the first time this season. Torii Hunter added a two-run homer Tuesday to help Minnesota even the series and improve to 4-1 against the AL West.
Before losing 14-4 in Monday’s series opener, the Twins took two of three games at Milwaukee.
Johan Santana threw seven dominant innings Tuesday night, alleviating pressure on a depleted bullpen. Relievers Glen Perkins, Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain are all out with shoulder injuries. Perkins went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, and Crain will have season-ending surgery next Tuesday.
Boof Bonser (2-1, 3.91 ERA) tries to give the Twins another lengthy outing and win his third straight start when he takes the ball on Wednesday. The right-hander is coming off a strong performance on Friday, when he held Milwaukee to one run and three hits over seven innings while striking out a career-high 11 in an 8-1 win.
Bonser is 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA over his last five outings.
He lost his only career start versus the Rangers last Aug. 2, allowing seven runs - four earned - and six hits over four innings of a 10-2 defeat.
After recording 28 runs and 33 hits in their previous two games, the Rangers were held to five hits on Tuesday and struck out 18 times.
Sammy Sosa hit his 598th career homer to move within two of becoming the fifth player to reach the 600 mark. The Rangers slugger is not expected to start Wednesday, however.
Robinson Tejeda (4-3, 4.53) takes the ball for Texas. The right-hander did not allow a hit through five innings on Friday, but left the game after the first three batters reached base in the sixth.
He held Houston to one run and two hits in the 7-4 victory, walking four and striking out six in what was, due to arm soreness, his first start since May 9.
“The fastball was good, the changeup was good, the slider was good,” said Tejeda, who has never faced the Twins. “Everything was together.”