The Grand Slam: Kendrys Morales signing already paying off for Twins


Whatever Kendrys Morales did to stay in shape and keep focused during his downtime seems to have worked brilliantly. The 30-year-old slugger, who only signed with the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, skipped a minor league assignment unlike fellow late signee and Scott Boras client Stephen Drew, but has still hit the ground running in his first three games. So far, he's collected six hits overall. That includes a big three-hit game on Wednesday afternoon as he helped lead Minnesota to a 7-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays

Morales singled and doubled twice to raise his early average to .462. Among the hits was a knockout blow in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, Morales smacked a double to center field that cleared the bags and extended Minnesota's lead to 6-0. A gorgeous swing with a better result that had manager Ron Gardenhire fawning from the dugout. 

''Pretty amazing,'' Gardenhire said. ''It doesn't look like he hasn't played in a long time.''

Also worth fawning over was starting pitcher Phil Hughes. The former Yankees right-hander struck out a season-high nine, walked none and allowed seven hits to pick up his seventh win of the season. It's also his first win at Rogers Centre since July 17, 2011, which is notable due to his time spent in the AL East. The drought covered a span of six starts. 


FAR EAST DOMINANCE: Any day Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka are scheduled to pitch stands to be a special one in MLB. On Wednesday, we were lucky enough to witness both of these outstanding Japanese right-handers, and neither disappointed.

In Texas, Darvish achieved a career milestone, going the distance for his first MLB complete game in the Rangers 6-0 victory over the Miami Marlins. Darvish has come close several times before, many of which were close calls on perfect game or no-hit bids, but on this occasion he sailed to the finish line with a six -hit shutout. His sterling performance also included 10 strikeouts. It's the 19th time in 73 MLB starts that he's fanned 10 or more batters. 

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the 25-year-old Tanaka hurled his second career complete game in the Yankees 4-2 victory over the Mariners. The dynamic rookie joined Toronto's Mark Buehrle as the only 10-game winners in MLB, and he did it in dominant fashion by adding another 11 strikeouts to his total, which already put him over 100 on the season.  

Tanaka's only blemish on Tuesday, oddly enough, was the two-run home run he allowed to former Yankee Robinson Cano in the ninth inning. It was only Cano's second home run of the season, and his first at his new home ballpark, Safeco Field.

CUETO DOMINATES DODGERS WITH DOZEN STRIKEOUTS: It looks like Johnny Cueto's shortest start of the season in Philadelphia on June 6 was just a blip on the radar. After allowing four runs over five innings against the Phillies, he was back in dominant form Wednesday, matching a career high with 12 strikeouts as the Reds blanked the Dodgers 5-0 in Cincinnati.

Cueto allowed only three singles and didn't walk a batter over his six scoreless frames. He lobbied for a seventh frame, but the high strikeout total combined with the Dodgers fouling off some pitches later in his outing elevated his pitch count quickly. With a four run lead, manager Bryan Price played it safe and smart by turning to his bullpen to record the final nine outs. Aroldis Chapman capped the game with a spotless ninth. He added two strikeouts, bringing Cincinnati's team total to 16.


(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It was all sighs of relief and then smiles in the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse. The struggling ballclub not only snapped their 31-inning scoreless streak — which included three straight shutouts coming in — but they also snapped a four-game losing streak with an impressive 6-3 win over Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The game actually started on a familiar path for manager Joe Maddon. His Rays were hitless into the fourth inning until James Loney dropped a single into shallow left field. Ben Zobrist followed with another bloop hit, and then the flood gates opened as Matt Joyce singled home Loney and Zobrist came around on a Cardinals throwing error. Two batter laters, Desmond Jennings padded the lead with a clean two-run single, and just like that the Rays were in command.

'Outstanding,'' Maddon said. ''The guys needed that, and you could just see them relax immediately.''

Unfortunately, it's only Tampa's second win in 16 games. They also still hold the worst record in MLB at 25-42, but it has to start somewhere. Why not here?

''It's been so awkward to watch this other side of this whole thing,'' Maddon said. ''I'm not going to say we're cured, but I definitely believe it's a step in the right direction.''

The Rays have an off day on Thursday, which they may not welcome coming off a win. They'll look to finally build some positive momentum beginning on Friday in Houston.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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