Wow. He just continues to tear the cover off the ball when the Twins need him to. Morneau had a pretty mediocre night up until the 10th inning. He doubled in the second but popped out in the fourth, grounded into a double play in the 6th to end a rally, and struck out in the eighth. But all was forgiven when he stepped up to the plate in the 10th and knocked the first pitch from lefty Trever Miller out of the ballpark to the opposite field to the put the Twins ahead after Joe Nathan had allowed the Astros to tie the game with a devastating home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Morneau now has five home runs against lefties this year (he hit four against southpaws all of last year) and continues to drive the ball to the opposite field with authority. He is now hitting .338 in June with a .692 slugging percentage, seven home runs, and 21 RBI. He seems to gain more and more confidence with each ball he crushes into in the seats.
Besides Justin, Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett continue to hit the ball well. Since replacing sloppy veterans, Kubel has hit .357 in June after going 2-for-4 last night and Bartlett is hitting .455 after a great 3-for-4 night with a walk. With all these young players doing so well (let's not forget Michael Cuddyer, who had another home run last night, bringing his season total to 11) it's hard not to get excited amongst this eight-game winning streak, even though the Twins can't seem to make up any ground in the central.
The disheartening thing is that some problems still clearly exist. For some apparent reason, Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire wish to keep a walking zombie named Ruben Sierra on the roster. It's hard to really find a good reason for having this guy on the club. I don't see him having the Rondell White or Tony Batista clubhouse presence, where he is well liked enough to give him way too many chances. Sierra isn't even a great career hitter. Those 306 career homers are deceiving. Guess what, Dave Kingman hit 442 home runs but was a .236 career hitter who didn't walk very much. Sierra is the same deal; he has never walked more than 60 times in a season, his career K:BB ration is over 2:1 at 1237:609, and his best seasons came (suprise) with Texas. Outside of Texas, his best season would seem to be 1993, when he had 22 HR and 101 RBI, but he had a terrible .233/.288/.390 that year.
The .158/.261/.211 he has in 19 at-bats this year is potentially just as disasterous and torturous as White's numbers. His presence to me is simply mind-numbing. Both these guys need to go fast, especially if the Twins think they have even a semblence of a chance to get back in this thing. Just witness last night, as Sierra came up to pinch-hit and proceeded to go down on three Brad Lidge pitches. (Apparently, according to Bert, split-fingers. His scouting report was a "good fastball, a splitter, a slider, and an occassional change. As far as I know and the sports world knows, he has two pitches: a upper 90's fastball and a wicked slider. Bert, as a former pitcher, should be able to tell the difference, but he used the reference around ten times. That lack of knowledge gets annoying.)
Besides how worthless Sierra is, I can no longer stand Torii Hunter's terrible timing on stolen bases or Lew Ford's inability to protect the plate. Following the big Morneau homer, Torii had a quick single. Then, as he did against Boston last week, he tried to steal with two strikes while Lew watched a strike go right over the middle and Torii was subsequently thrown out easily. The Twins could have used another run, seeing that Nathan was mortal and blew a save in the ninth (although he was great in the 10th, striking out the side), and would have had a two-run cushion since the next hitter, Bartlett, followed with a double. About the only thing that came out of his mistake was the opportunity for Joe Nathan to bat. And please, for God's sake, let no one ever call him a "vulture" again. That word is reserved for mediocre pitches who get lucky and get wins on a winning team.
Today, the Twins face the easiest pitcher in the series in lefty Wandy Rodriguez but unfortunately, they have Carlos Silva pitching. Last start, he managed to shut down the potent Red Sox lineup, so lets hope he has similar luck tonight.