MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each went deep and drove in eight runs between them, as the Minnesota Twins heaped four home runs on their usual small-ball approach to beat the Texas Rangers 14-2 on Saturday night.
Lost in the shuffle of a 16-hit barrage by the home team was another win for Livan Hernandez (10-6), who was flawless for seven innings and matched his season low of five hits allowed. Minnesota is 14-7 when he starts, despite an ERA he reduced to 5.29.
Delmon Young hit a solo shot, too, to start a six-run sixth inning that ruined Rangers starter Matt Harrison’s already-deteriorating night. Right after Mauer’s two-run double against reliever Dustin Nippert, Morneau—the reigning All-Star Home Run Derby champ—crushed a 1-1 pitch into the seat stacks above right field for his 15th homer and a 12-2 advantage for the surging Twins.
Brian Buscher added a two-run home run in the seventh to push the lead to a dozen and give Minnesota a 23-7 record since mid-June, but the hits came in all shapes and sizes.
Morneau also hit a three-run double and now has 73 RBIs. Young had three hits and two RBIs to raise his average above .300. Carlos Gomez doubled twice, once by sneaking into second when Texas left fielder David Murphy lazily returned his chopper to the infield. Even backup catcher Mike Redmond, who relieved Mauer for the last two innings, contributed a bouncing single over the mound after a 14-pitch at-bat in the eighth.
Harrison (1-1) threw 84 pitches and didn’t get any outs in the sixth. He was tagged for nine hits, eight runs and three walks without a strikeout. After winning his major league debut with seven innings and only five hits and two runs on July 8, Harrison has been hit hard in his last two starts.
Perhaps Vicente Padilla can put the Texas rotation back in a better place. He was scheduled to be activated from the 15-day disabled list and pitch on Sunday afternoon.
Hernandez’s performance down the stretch will be scrutinized, with Francisco Liriano waiting impatiently in upstate New York. The prized left-hander’s comeback from elbow surgery is essentially complete, and Liriano’s agent asked the union to make sure Minnesota is not keeping him in the minors to save money. Liriano is 7-0 with a 2.73 ERA over his last nine starts for Triple-A Rochester.
None of the four young guys in the rotation have shown any vulnerability lately, so Hernandez and his majors-most 178 hits allowed—in less than 128 innings—could make sense to trade. The Twins love his wisdom and leadership of the inexperienced staff, though, and have offered no hint that his place is insecure.
The wily old Cuban showed why on Saturday, retiring 12 straight batters on the highest-scoring team in the majors after Chris Davis hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the second inning to give the Rangers a brief 2-1 lead.