The Minnesota Twins generated their highest offensive output of the season on Thursday afternoon at the Overstock.com Coliseum, as they put together sixteen hits in a 11-1 thumping of the Oakland Athletics.
The Twins got off to an early lead in this one, getting single runs in each of the first two innings. A single to right by Jason Kubel scored Denard Span in the first inning, and the Twins got a solo home run from Rene Rivera. . .yes, that Rene Rivera. . .to give themselves an early 2-0 lead. They extended that lead to 4-0 in the top of the fifth, as Kubel singled with one out, and Justin Morneau ripped a home run into the right field stands, just his second long ball of the season.
After Mark Ellis grounded into a fielder's choice in the bottom of the seventh to bring home a run and allow Oakland to cut the deficit to 4-1, the Twins blew it open in the top of the eighth with six runs. Morneau got the inning going with a double, and moved to third on a wild pitch before coming home on Michael Cuddyer's single. Cuddyer came home to score on a double by Danny Valencia, and after Delmon Young fouled out, Rivera singled to put runners on the corners. Valencia scored when Alexi Casilla grounded into what looked like a double play, but he beat the throw to first to keep the inning alive. The Twins made Oakland pay for not turning the double play, as Denard Span walked, and Trevor Plouffe followed that up with a three-run homer to left field to make the score 10-1 in favor of the Twins.
The Twins added one more run in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Young, providing the final margin of victory.
This was easily the Twins' most impressive offensive performance of 2011. The six runs they scored in the top of the eighth is a greater total than they have scored in 39 of their 42 games this season, and the sixteen hits are a season high. Trevor Plouffe drove in three runs for the second consecutive game, Morneau and Cuddyer each had three hits, and of the starters, only Denard Span did not drive in a run.
Lost in this was a very good pitching performance by Nick Blackburn, who went seven innings and allowed just five hits and a run on the fielder's choice in the seventh. Phil Dumatrait and Anthony Swarzak each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Blackburn got the victory, bringing his record on the year to 3-4.
For the Athletics, Tyson Ross would up taking the loss in this one, despite only facing one batter. Denard Span got a lead-off single against Ross, who was then lifted in favor of David Purcey because Ross had strained his left oblique muscle. However, since Span was his responsibility and he came around to score, Ross took the loss to fall to 3-3 on the season.
The Twins' third consecutive victory matches their longest winning streak of the year, a mark they've hit on two other occasions.
Minnesota begins interleague play tomorrow, as they head to the desert to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. First pitch from Chase Field on Friday night is scheduled for 8:40 PM Central time. Brian Duensing (2-3, 4.61 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins, and righty Ian Kennedy (4-1, 3.05 ERA) will get the ball for Arizona.