Morneau's home run helps Twins top Tigers

Morneau's home run helps Twins top Tigers

Morneau's home run helps Twins top Tigers
DETROIT -- Aside from a couple of injuries, the Twins probably couldn't have asked for better results in their two-game series against Detroit.

After beating the Tigers on Wednesday, the Twins came back out Thursday afternoon with their red-hot bats and posted a 4-3 victory to earn their first series sweep of the season.

"This is a great [Tigers] team," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This is a team everybody's picked to win the division, and you come in here and win a couple of ballgames against them and you go toe-to-toe with them, that's a good feeling. It's something you can build off of."

The win marked the first time the Twins have won back-to-back games on the road this year, and their first back-to-back wins overall since April 11-12 -- the home-opening series -- against the Angels.

In the two games, Minnesota scored 15 runs, including a season-high 11 on Wednesday, on 24 hits. On Thursday, the Twins had a starting pitcher enter the fifth inning without allowing a hit to a division rival that boasts one of the most feared lineups in the Majors. And they also had a pair of slumping sluggers connect for the team's first back-to-back home runs in 2012.

One of those sluggers was Justin Morneau, who returned Wednesday from a stint on the disabled list with a sore left wrist. After playing first base and going 1-for-5 in his return, Morneau asked Gardenhire to be placed back at designated hitter.

The move paid off, as Morneau went 2-for-4 with a single, a home run and three RBIs. He hit an opposite-field two-run blast in the third inning off Tigers starter Doug Fister to get the scoring started

"Him driving the ball the other way is huge," Gardenhire said. "If he's staying on the ball like that, gets the barrel on it, that's all he has to do is put a nice swing on the ball and it will fly."

Trevor Plouffe followed Morneau with a home run of his own. It was Plouffe's second home run in as many days, and it marked the first the Twins have gone back-to-back since Aug. 27.

"A big home run by [Mourneau], and then [Plouffe] steps up and bangs another one," Gardenhire said. "That [got] everybody kind of going."

Morneau drove in his third run of the game with a groundout. Josh Willingham capitalized on an error by Prince Fielder that turned a tapper back to the pitcher into a three-bag miscue that put Willingham on third with no outs.

The Twins had a 4-0 lead before the Tigers recorded their first hit of the game.

Right-hander P.J. Walters took the hill for Minnesota and was tasked with saving a bullpen that had combined for 11 innings of relief over the past two days. He passed that test with flying colors, holding the Tigers hitless through four innings.

"He had a pretty good little sinker working today and a changeup, and he kept us off-balance a little bit," Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks said. "He wasn't leaving the ball over the plate. He was hitting his spots when he needed to, and we had a little trouble getting on him early."

The Tigers did eventually break through against the right-hander. Walters allowed three runs on three solo home runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. Gardenhire said it was just what the team needed.

"He battled. He worked ahead for the most part," Gardenhire said. "He gave up a couple of home runs, but that's attacking the strike zone."

Brennan Boesch broke up the no-hit bid with a leadoff solo shot in the bottom of the fifth inning. In the sixth, Dirks led off with a home run, and two batters later, Fielder joined the party to cut the Twins' lead to one.

"I don't like to give up home runs, but the offense gave me a little room to work with there, so it didn't hurt us," Walters said.

Walters survived the inning, but he was pulled with one out and runners on first and second in the seventh. The bullpen came through once again, as Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Matt Capps combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings to seal the win.

"Now we've got to go to a very tough place to play in Milwaukee, and then Chicago," Gardenhire said. "It's not going to be easy, but there's some confidence that's coming through this ... clubhouse. And you know what, it's fun. These guys are starting to see it's pretty fun winning games."

Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.