Just like Jim Thome a year ago, Justin Morneau reached a milestone last night with a two-homer game against a division opponent. Thome’s twin blasts against Detroit last August gave him 600 for his career. Morneau will probably never come close to that number, but he is a third of the way there, thanks to a pair of dingers against the hapless Indians last night.
The first round-tripper came on the heels of a Josh Willingham solo shot in the second inning. Morneau’s homer off Zach McAllister was the second run in what turned out to be a 10 run innings. The second, career shot number 200, came against Josh Tomlin in the fourth inning with Ben Revere aboard. That secures Tomlin’s place in the footnotes of Morneau’s career. He joins such notables as Albie Lopez, who served up Morneau’s first career homer back in 2003, Fernando Cabrera, who surrendered #100 in 2007, and Esteban Loaiza and Justin Duchsherer, against whom Morneau hit his only two postseason homers in 2006.
Yesterday’s 200th homer is more than just a nice round number. It is a step up the ladder on the Minnesota Twins’ all-time homer list. Morneau is just one home run away from tying Gary Gaetti for sixth place in franchise history. By the end of the season, barring an injury or a slump, Morneau is likely to catch Kirby Puckett (207) for fifth place as well. Fourth place on the Minnesota Twins list is Bob Allison with 211, a number Morneau could conceivably reach with a hot September, but if you count his Washington Senators numbers, Allison rises to #3 with 256.
As Dustin Morse (@Twins_morsecode) pointed out on Twitter, Morneau is the fourth Canadian-born Major Leaguer to reach the 200 milestone. Appropriately, his 200th blast came in support of fellow Canadian Scott Diamond.
Wherever he ranks on the all-time lists, it’s great to have Morneau back in his top slugging form. After struggling through the first half of the season, Morneau has suddenly regained his identity as one of the American League’s most dangerous hitters. His slash line has jumped from .229/.301/.435 near the end of June to .275/.335/.481 today. And there’s still plenty of season left for Morneau to impress us. His hitting surge comes too late in the season to boost the Twins back into contention, and to be honest, the Twins’ problems are far bigger than anything Morneau could solve. But it is very nice to know that Morneau, who is under contract through 2014, could be something close to the MVP lineup presence he used to be.
The Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Giants all were linked to Morneau at the trade deadline, but none of them made a substantial enough offer to impress Terry Ryan. Hopefully Morneau’s performance has those teams kicking themselves and making a mental note to overpay next time they try to trade with the Twins! Because it sure looks like Ryan made the right move by keeping Morneau in town.