Morneau's production lagging lately

Morneau's production lagging lately

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was cognizant of the chants showered upon him earlier this week. Each time he walked to the plate against the White Sox in a series the Twins would ultimately sweep, the fans yelled the same chorus.

"MVP! MVP! MVP!"

Morneau's production has been a driving force of the club's surprising run to first place in the American League Central with only two games to play. But his late-season production has lagged at a time when the club is clawing to secure the division title.

Entering Saturday's game against Kansas City, Morneau was batting .261 (24-for-92) in September with two home runs. In 11 games since Sept. 15, Morneau is hitting .200 (9-for-45) with no home runs and a meager OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .517.

"He's pressing a little bit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's also played 160 games. He knows he has to be out there, and I'm sure his body is feeling the effects of that, so there is probably a lot of things going on with him. No one wants to do it more than this guy. So, he's been trying to force the issue."

Gardenhire thinks it would be redundant to approach Morneau about the scuffling.

"You just have to let him go, no sense in me walking up to him and saying, 'Hey, relax a little bit.' He knows what he has to do," Gardenhire said.

Despite the recent struggles, Morneau is hitting .304 with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs overall. He has still managed to accumulate 21 RBIs in September, including a pair of four-RBI games.

"You go through stretches as a hitter where it doesn't feel like you ever get a good pitch to hit," Gardenhire said. "Some days, the ball looks like a beach ball, and some days, it looks like a golf ball. Hopefully, it's a beach ball today."

Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.