Twins share individual accolades in 19-1 thrashing of Royals
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The Minnesota Twins took the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and his bullpen friends behind the woodshed in Kansas City on Monday night, pounding out 20 hits in a 19-1 thrashing.
Zack Greinke allowed eight earned runs for the first time since June 3, 2008, and the Twins tallied a season-high 11 extra base hits.
Each of these individual performances deserves elaboration:
Mauer is still good at baseball
Some folks might use Joe Mauer's 5-for-5, seven-RBI performance (a career high) on Monday night as an I-told-you-so opportunity. But that's not necessarily fair.
Mauer, whose five-hit night was the fourth such performance of his career, entered the game hitting just .295 with a .800 OPS -- .231 points lower than his OPS in 2009. By Mauer's standards, he was struggling, he wasn't hitting for nearly as much power, and he dropped down a bunt that one time.
But in 10 games since the All-Star break, Mauer is hitting .386/.413/.659 with eight extra base hits and 15 RBIs.
There was little doubt Mauer would eventually catch fire once again, as all elite hitters do. And, well, he's now on fire.
Valencia becomes first Twin to hit grand slam as first home run
With a two-out line drive over the left field fence in the first inning, Danny Valencia became the first Twins player to hit a grand slam for his first major-league home run.
Valencia, who is now hitting .376/.430/.482 after going 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, a walk and four RBIs, had yet to hit a ball over the fence in 290 plate appearances between the Twins and Class-AAA Rochester this season.
With two hits in the sixth inning, Valencia also became the first Twins player to collect two hits in one inning since Michael Cuddyer on August 23, 2009 (two home runs in the seventh for Cuddyer). Valencia also has at least three hits in his last three games.
The knock on Valencia, justifiably so, was his lack of power this season. Quite frankly, it probably wasn't worth removing Nick Punto's elite glove from third base for Valencia's hollow, powerless .300 batting average, but if the 25-year-old continues to drive the ball with authority like he has over the past few games, it will be impossible to keep him out of the lineup.
Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays history against the Tigers on Monday night, and that would typically be a reminder of how badly the Twins were ripped off in the trade that brought Delmon Young and Brendan Harris to town for Garza and Jason Bartlett.
But after yet another ridiculous performance by Young on Monday -- 4-for-6, two doubles, one RBI -- it's hard to feel nostalgic about anything Garza is doing. Young made the Twins wait two years for the payoff, but his .328/.359/.536 batting line so far this season has been nothing short of extraordinary, relatively speaking.
Liriano headed for Twins record?
Francisco Liriano held an opponent scoreless through seven innings for the second consecutive start. He allowed only three hits on Monday night while striking out six and walking none, shaving his ERA down to 3.35.
In 20 starts this season, Liriano has allowed only two home runs, and both came in the same game on May 20 in Boston. Only one Twins starting pitcher (among those who qualified for the ERA title) has ever allowed fewer than 10 home runs in a season -- Bill Singer (9) in 1976.
Of course, this post probably just jinxed Liriano, but he is well on his way to setting a club record for fewest home runs allowed in a season -- a far cry from the guy who served up 21 bombs in 136 2/3 innings last season.