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Updated: May 28th, 2012 10:59pm
Justin Morneau is 'really battling' against left-handed pitchers

Justin Morneau is 'really battling' against left-handed pitchers

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hitting left-handed pitchers has been a problem for Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau this season, but he was able to put those struggles aside briefly on Monday.

Morneau drove a sac fly to left field off Oakland A's lefty Jordan Norberto in the sixth inning that plated Joe Mauer and temporarily tied the game, 3-3. The Twins later won in part because of Morneau's bloop RBI double -- off righty Ryan Cook -- in the eighth inning.

The sac fly off lefty Norberto came after Morneau swung and missed at a 2-0 fastball up in the zone and a 2-1 breaking pitch low and outside.

"They had the infield back, too, with two strikes the last thing I can do is strike out there," Morneau said. "I've got to make sure I get the ball in play... I chased a pitch the pitch before, and you've got to find a way to put all that stuff out of your head, and make sure you have a good at-bat, and make sure at least one of those guys get in."

Even with that all-important sac fly Morneau is hitting just .095 (4-for-42) with a home run and a double against left-handed pitchers this season. Morneau is hitting .308/.396/.692 with eight home runs against right-handed pitchers.

Most left-handed hitters struggled against left-handed pitchers -- at least relative to how they perform against righties. Denard Span is one of the exceptions. He actually hits left-handed pitchers better than right-handed pitchers throughout his career.

But such a drastic split, as Morneau has experienced, is glaring.

Asked about his performance against lefties, Morneau actually chuckled a little bit.

"I'm really battling," he said.

"I'm looking at stuff, trying to figure it out. I look at the good stuff, when I was going good, when I was swinging the bat well off lefties and try to figure out what I'm doing differently or what I have been doing differently, and it's kind of been a battle all year. Last year, I think was more of the same, I didn't have the same success I've had for most of my career, I'm going to keep looking for the good things and keep battling."

It hasn't always been this difficult for Morneau to hit lefties. Prior to suffering the concussion in July of 2010 Morneau was hitting .325/.391/.575 against lefties. Throughout his career he hits .254/.302/.438 against them -- not great, but certainly not 4-for-42.

Considering this is the first extended stretch in which Morneau has been (almost) fully healthy in two years, it's understandable why there'd be an adjustment period.

Right now it sometimes looks as if Morneau has made up his mind before facing a left-hander that he's going to swing at anything and everything that doesn't bounce five feet in front of the plate.

"One of the things I'm not doing is being patient enough, for sure," he said. "I think I'm just trying to do a little too much. I'm a little over-aggressive, trying to get everybody in that's ever been on base, and when you do that, you get yourself in trouble as a hitter. You've got to trust the guys behind you, and trust that if I walk, they're going to get the job done."

Drawing a walk against a left-handed pitcher is something Morneau has yet to accomplish this season.

For now Morneau is doing enough damage against right-handed pitchers to make up for the drastic split.

But the longer he struggles against lefties the easier it will be for opposing managers to match up with him late in games.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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