Kubel leads power surge over Indians

Kubel leads power surge over Indians

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jason Kubel was one of the Twins' hottest hitters early in the season. But after tweaking his knee two weeks ago while playing the outfield during a contest in Chicago, Kubel's bat started to slow down.

Heading into Thursday's series finale with the Indians, Kubel was batting .185 with just two RBIs in eight games since returning from the injury.

Kubel's career numbers against Indians starter Fausto Carmona -- eight hits in 18 at-bats -- earned him a rare start in right field for the contest, at least it did after manager Ron Gardenhire checked to make sure Kubel's balky knee was doing just fine. And Kubel made good on the opportunity. He hit two homers and recorded six RBIs off Carmona as the Twins offense combined for a total of 13 hits and four homers in an 11-3 blowout victory over the Indians at the Metrodome.

"Since beginning of the season, I've had a real good feeling [at the plate]," Kubel said. "That hasn't faded except for the past five, six games have been a little rough. Now I'm right back to where I want to be."

It didn't take long for either Kubel or the Twins to feel good on Thursday afternoon as they got to Carmona very early on in his outing.

Kubel delivered his pair of three-run homers, his sixth and seventh homers of the year, respectively, in back-to-back plate appearances. In the first inning, he hit a homer to center field and then in the second inning, he belted one off the Cambria sign in right-center field.

It was Kubel's fourth career two-homer game and his second of this season. He also hit two in a contest at Cleveland on April 25.

"He hit a couple rockets today," said Joe Mauer, who batted in Kubel's usual DH spot on Thursday. "That's nice to see. He's kind of been struggling a bit lately, but he's a great hitter who we know pretty quickly is going to get swinging the bat again."

The big day by Kubel helped knock Carmona (2-6) out of the contest early. The right-hander lasted just two innings against the Twins, allowing seven runs on five hits. His ERA rose from 6.60 to 7.42, which ranks last among all qualifying Major League pitchers.

"Kubel had a big night," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He had a big night in the first couple of innings. He touched [Carmona] up pretty good. They've got some left-handers over there that know how to swing the bat, no doubt about it."

The increased power in the Twins lineup this season was on display throughout the month of May. But this was the first time in June that the home run show had made an appearance at the Metrodome.

In addition to Kubel's home runs, Denard Span and Justin Morneau each added a long ball of their own in the sixth inning. Span hit a one-out solo homer off reliever Tomo Ohka for his fourth of the season. After Mauer singled to center, Morneau belted his 15th home run of the season -- a two-run shot off Ohka to the upper deck in right field.

For the Twins it was much of the same thing they've been seeing from the top of their order. Mauer delivered three hits in the game, raising his batting average to .436 on the season, and Morneau reached in all five of his plate appearances.

The early offensive production helped make things easier on starter Scott Baker, who has been working on a slight mechanical adjustment to stay taller in his delivery.

Baker appeared to have made that change early in the contest, easing through the first 4 1/3 innings without giving up a hit to the Indians. Baker retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced before Mark DeRosa's one-out double in the fifth inning.

The Indians managed to tally some hits off the pitcher in the sixth, but Baker limited the damage as he allowed just three runs (two earned) on six hits over seven innings. He struck out a career-high 10 batters and became the first Twins pitcher to reach double-digit strikeouts in a game this season.

"You can't strike a guy out until you get two strikes on them," Baker said. "You have to get ahead of guys and then make a decent pitch. Today that was the case. Basically it was just putting guys away effectively. That's something I've always had to battle throughout my career and it felt good to be able to do that today."

Thursday's victory gave the Twins a 2-1 series win over the Indians in what was a very short, three-game homestand. Now the club heads back on the road for the start of a 10-game road trip. And considering the woes the team has faced on the road this season, the hope is that it can carry the momentum of this series into that trip.

"It's about making our own luck now, we have to come up and continue to put some better swings together," Gardenhire said. "It has to stretch out through our lineup. It can't be just two or three guys in the middle. We need our lineup stretched out. We need guys to get going all the way up and down."

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