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Morneau leads Twins' rout

Morneau leads Twins' rout

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' remarkable turnaround last year was largely credited to personnel changes that the club made in mid-June. But the team felt that a breakthrough of sorts in terms of team unity came a little earlier than that.

When the struggles had reached a low point in mid-May last season, the team held a meeting in Milwaukee as a means of rallying the troops.

A similar meeting occurred when the team played at Miller Park just a little over a week ago. After watching themselves delve into a similar early lull like last season, the Twins called a players-only meeting on the first night of the series with the Brewers. And the team came out of it with more than just matching buzzed hairdos -- it came out with a renewed focus on team.

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"Sometimes a meeting like that is all you need," Mike Redmond said.

It's certainly been a different Twins team since, with the club pulling off four straight series victories including one it captured Tuesday night thanks to a 9-2 victory over the White Sox.

Before pulling off two victories in Milwaukee to take the series, the Twins had lost five consecutive series. And even more deflating was the fact that it came during a stretch where the team was playing less-than-stellar baseball.

But that has changed over the recent games. The Twins are looking more like the club that put together such an impressive run last season. That includes delivering key two-out hits -- six of the team's nine runs Tuesday came with two outs.

There have been plenty of positive signs along the way -- better performances by the starting pitchers, better production by the club's offense and on this day, even something a little more rare for the club.

"We beat a left-hander, and that's something to add to our resume," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Tuesday marked the third time that the Twins had seen White Sox southpaw John Danks this season. And while Danks had held the Twins to just four earned runs over his previous 12 2/3 innings against them, this outing was a different story.

The Twins were able to tag Danks for six runs on nine hits over just 3 1/3 innings. That included a four-run third inning where Danks gave up two-run homers to both Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Exactly what the Twins felt was different this time when facing Danks boiled down to something quite simple.

"I think we were able to stay back and wait this time," Michael Cuddyer said. "The last couple times, we were a little too aggressive, maybe swinging at pitches out of the zone. This time, we were able to get balls and wait on him a little more. Hopefully, that's a good sign."

Left-handed pitching has proven to be a thorn for the Twins all year. The team was just 6-9 in games against lefties coming into Tuesday. Knowing the type of talented southpaws that the American League Central has in the Indians' C.C. Sabathia, the Tigers' Nate Robertson and Chicago's Mark Buehrle, the Twins knew that eventually they would have to produce wins against those types of opponents.

"You have to get those guys because there are plenty of them in this division and the only way to win the division is to beat the division," Cuddyer said.

One of the reasons the Twins have been able to turn things around recently is the play of one of their own lefties, Morneau.

The first baseman now has 10 home runs in May and is batting .347 over his last 12 games. Morneau continued his hot streak just one day after he was involved in his own bit of controversy on a baserunning play involving A.J. Pierzynski. The Twins made good on their proclamation that the situation was over with, as no retaliation was taken in the game.

But it seemed that Morneau got a bit of his own, going 3-for-4 on the day, with two doubles, the homer and four RBIs.

Still, Morneau said after the game that his mind wasn't on the play but rather on the team's ability to pull off the series win. And he, too, referenced the club's meeting as a critical factor in the turnaround.

"You know when we had our team meeting in Milwaukee, we said we had to pull for each other and cheer each other on and try to win series," Morneau said. "We don't have to reel off 20 games in a row; as long as we keep winning series and keep it simple like that, we're going to be all right."

Getting another quality start from their pitcher was a big help in the matter as well. Boof Bonser provided that by pitching 6 2/3 innings, giving up just one earned run on seven hits while striking out six.

"He was getting ahead of the hitters and throwing his curveball for strikes," White Sox third baseman Joe Crede said of Bonser. "Any time you have that combination, you get a lot of ground balls. He was doing what he wanted to do, and that was get ahead of the guys and get him where he could get his pitch. He pitched well."

The victory also put the Twins above the .500 mark for the first time since May 9. Ironically it was also the last time the Twins had faced the left-handed Danks. But while struggles seemed to plague the club during much of that stretch, Redmond sees that things are starting to get back on track.

"I think everybody uses that barometer of being around .500 as something big, but more important for us is that we're starting to get going," Redmond, who left the game after being hit by a pitch in the eighth inning, said. "We're starting to play with confidence and play the way we're capable of playing."

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

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