Hunter slams Twins past Tribe

Hunter slams Twins past Tribe

MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to bases loaded situations, Torii Hunter has learned what it's like to go from the outhouse to the penthouse.

Already mired in a slump, Hunter heard rare booing from the home crowd May 20 vs. the Brewers after he grounded into two double plays with the bases loaded during back-to-back at-bats.

Not surprisingly, a 5-for-5 game with six RBIs like the one Hunter had in Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Indians can quickly change one's status in the minds of fans. The five hits, which included a grand slam and a two-run double with the bases loaded, were a career-high. The six RBIs, which accounted for all of his team's offense, tied a career best.

A triple shy of the cycle, the crowd of 20,739 at the Metrodome gave him a standing ovation before his final at-bat.

"I loved that," Hunter said.

Hunter entered the night 0-for-9 with the bases full, with three strikeouts and three ground-ball double plays. That changed in the third inning Wednesday against Indians lefty Cliff Lee.

Shannon Stewart started the rally when he worked an 0-2 count into a leadoff walk. After Lew Ford's one-out single, Justin Morneau hit a grounder deep to the hole between first and second base. Ben Broussard bobbled the ball briefly, but Morneau reached with a hit when Lee (6-3) didn't cover first base.

Lee's next pitch was a hanging curveball to Hunter. It was tattooed 410 feet into the left-field seats for the fourth grand slam of his career and his first since July 5, 2002 at Seattle.

"My hands said yes, that's all. I reacted to it," Hunter said. "That was a pretty good pitch. Most people don't swing at that curveball, first pitch. I don't know why I did."

Leading off the fifth, Hunter just missed a second home run. His drive off another Lee first pitch hit the wall in right-center field. Up again in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, he popped a high fly to shallow left field. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta and left fielder Jody Gerut both converged on the ball before slowing up. The ball dropped between them and Hunter was credited with a two-run double.

That provided Twins starter Brad Radke (5-4) with plenty of breathing room. A first-inning two-run homer by Broussard was the only real blemish over seven solid innings.

Career high for Hunter
Indians at Twins, June 1
After going 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a grand slam and six RBIs, Torii Hunter is batting .258 with seven homers through June 1. A look at his plate appearances:
Inn.CountResult
2nd1-1, 0 OutSingle
3rd0-0, 1 OutGrand slam
5th0-0, 0 OutDouble
6th0-0, 2 OutTwo-run double
8th0-2, 2 OutSingle
Hunter increased his season RBI total to 32 through June 1. Five hits is his career high and six RBIs matches his high, last reached on Aug. 31, 2004, in an 8-5 win over Texas.

One more shot at the cycle came with two outs in the eighth for Hunter. With the crowd on its feet and his teammates coaxing him to go for the triple, he swung hard at reliever David Riske's second pitch before re-thinking his approach.

"I just tried to make contact and get a base hit," said Hunter, who got his fifth hit on a lined single to right field.

In one night, Hunter's average climbed from .238 to a more respectable .258. He was 1-for-11 in his previous three games and had yet to really find his groove all season.

"Torii had a huge night," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He put some good swings on the ball. He's been working at it ... tonight, it paid off."

For the past week and a half, the 29-year-old Hunter had come to the ballpark early for extra work. He tinkered with the mechanical approach of his swing with hitting coach Scott Ullger. Help on the mental side was provided by first base coach Jerry White.

"Just like anything else, you get a feel and they come in bunches," Ullger said. "Home runs come in bunches. Hopefully, he can continue that feel he's got. He made the adjustment tonight."

Now, the Twins are hoping Hunter's spark can spread fire around the heart of the lineup. Morneau's infield hit snapped an 0-for-14 skid, but the cleanup hitter is batting .127 (7-for-55) since May 14. Sixth hitter Jacque Jones has had his share of recent struggles.

"If we get some guys feeling better about themselves and start clicking on the ball, we can score some runs," Gardenhire said. "We'll be able to do some damage."

On Wednesday, Hunter did all the damage as a one-man Cleveland wrecking crew.

"It's starting to come through for me," Hunter said. "I still have a long way to go. I have to keep working on it and not give up. The numbers will be there in the end, I hope."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.