Offensive onslaught, another gem by Scott Diamond highlight Twins win
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Every Minnesota Twins starter reached base at least once in an offensive onslaught that led to an 11-3 beat down of the Chicago Cubs on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
Leading 2-0, the Twins busted the game open against hard-throwing righty Jeff Samardzija with five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Back-to-back doubles by Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe plated three runs to extend the lead to 5-0, Denard Span's RBI double two batters later made it 6-0, and an infield single by Ben Revere scored Span and knocked Samardzija out of the game.
For good measure, Mauer welcomed right-hander Casey Coleman with a double off the wall in left to push the lead to 8-0.
Samardzija entered the game with a 3.13 ERA. After being charged with eight earned runs on nine hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings, Samardzija's ERA ballooned to 3.96. Prior to Saturday Samardzija hadn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since April 19.
Though separated by six years, Smaradzija's struggle-filled outing on Saturday was just as rocky as first appearance in the Twin Cities.
Smaradzija last visited Minneapolis on March 4, 2006 as a starter for Notre Dame and found himself tagged by the Minnesota Gophers for five runs in an 8-0 shutout loss at the Metrodome. Coincidentally, the win went to Cole De Vries, who has started three games for the Twins this season.
Plouffe continued the offensive onslaught by adding a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning -- his ninth of the season.
RBI singles by Mauer and Willingham in the sixth made it 11-0.
The Twins initially jumped in front in the bottom of the second when Plouffe drove home Willingham from third base on a grounder to the left side of the infield. Brian Dozier followed with a two-out, RBI single to knock in Morneau.
Scott Diamond pitched well for the seventh straight game since his call-up in early May, holding the Cubs scoreless over six innings. Diamond allowed seven hits, walked nobody and struck out five to lower his ERA to 1.61.
"Me and Joe attacked in all game, and I think that kind of expanded the zone," Diamond said, adding "We were able to get groundballs and just get quick outs. ...
"My game plan coming in was to keep using my fastball, so me and Joe discussed it before the game, and we just wanted to keep attacking inside and go from there. It seemed to play off pretty well."
The Cubs scored three runs late off Jeff Gray -- an RBI groundout by Reed Johnson in the seventh and a two-run blast into the upper deck by Alfonso Soriano in the eighth.
The victory moves the Twins to within 10 games of .500 for the first time since April 30.
"We're still 10 games below .500," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You put yourself in such a hole, you have a long ways to go. But right now there's a whole different atmosphere in this clubhouse and on the field. And that's the start. You have to feel like you can win every day, and that starts with our starting pitching."
The six-run outburst by the Twins in the bottom of the fourth inning made sure the struggling Cubs had no visions of a comeback.
"There is a bunch of confidence in (that clubhouse)," Gardenhire said. "As we said, it starts with our starting pitcher. If our starting pitcher is getting us deep into games and gives us a chance, that's what it's all about. But you can tell they're really relaxed. We feel like we're going to score some runs, we feel like we're going to win games. It's just how. Who's going to come up with a big hit?"
3.4: Runs per game by the Twins offense from April 6 through May 10.
5.1: Runs per game since May 11.
8: The number of times the Twins have scored eight runs or more in a game this season. They accomplished the feat 16 times last season.
3: The number of times Starlin Castro called time during his at-bat in the third inning, prompting Twins fans to shower him with boos. Diamond was visibly annoyed on the mound as well. After the at-bat -- a swinging strikeout -- Castro and Diamond stared each other down. "I was getting a little frustrated," Diamond said. "But that's the way the game goes."
1: Special guest in attendance: Ricky Rubio.
Span (flu) and Mauer (thumb) were both back in the lineup.
Sunday: vs. Cubs, 1:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-6, 6.46) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (1-3, 2.59)
Monday: Off day