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MIN@OAK: Morneau belts a two-run shot to right-center

OAKLAND -- It's fair to say it was the best performance from the Twins' offense all season.

Minnesota racked up a season-best 16 hits, including a season-high three homers, en route to its highest run total of the year in a 11-1 rout of the A's on Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum. The Twins took both games of the two-game set.

Everyone in the starting lineup but Denard Span had an RBI, everyone but Alexi Casilla got a hit and everyone but Delmon Young scored a run.

It was the kind of showing the Twins have lacked this season, as they rank last in the Majors in runs scored after scoring the sixth-most runs in baseball last season.

"We've scored runs, but just not this year -- yet," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We really believe we can, and that if we all get the stars aligned up, we can do some damage. So it's fun. We had a fun series here."

Fun hasn't exactly been a word associated with Minnesota's season, given its 15-27 record, but the Twins have won three in a row, and Gardenhire has sensed a different attitude recently.

"There is a lot better feeling in the dugout lately," Gardenhire said. "You've seen guys relax a little bit, and we had a fun day even working out today."

So while the offense was obviously much better, right-hander Nick Blackburn was also on his game, turning in his fourth straight quality start by allowing just one run on four hits and two walks to shut down Oakland's offense.

His sinker did its job, as he retired 12 batters via groundouts and also ended the fourth inning with a double play. But Blackburn, who has 1.63 ERA over his past four starts, said he actually felt better in his last few outings.

"Today was probably the biggest battle for me, because I didn't feel like I was locating," Blackburn said. "But we were getting a lot of ground balls. So I guess that shows the ball was moving down and that it was moving late. So we were able to keep them off balance."

A's catcher Kurt Suzuki basically agreed with Blackburn's analysis, as Oakland had a rough time hitting the ball hard against him.

"He was keeping us off balance and he was tough to square up today," Suzuki said. "He wasn't leaving a lot of balls down the middle. His objective is to get you to hit the ball weakly, and he did a good job today."

The Twins, however, hit the ball plenty hard and received a break early on, as right-hander Tyson Ross exited after just seven pitches because of a left oblique strain.

Minnesota's offense was powered by the long ball, which has been rare this year. Thursday marked just the third time this season the club has had more than two homers in a game and the first time its had three.

It was catcher Rene Rivera who gave the club its first homer in the game, as he went deep in the second inning to mark his first homer in the big leagues since July 9, 2006.

"It felt great," said Rivera, who became the first Twins catcher to homer this year. "It's a pretty good feeling. I can't lie. It felt great to see the ball leave the yard. So hopefully, I can keep working hard and hit the ball hard."

Justin Morneau added a two-run shot in the fifth inning to give the Twins a four-run lead before Trevor Plouffe capped off a six-run eighth inning with a three-run blast.

"That was real nice to see," Gardenhire said with a smile.

The Twins head to Arizona on Friday to begin Interleague Play, but there'll be a tough start to the day, as the entire team and coaching staff is expected to attend Hall of Famer and Twins legend Harmon Killebrew's funeral in the morning.

"We have a big day ahead of us," Gardenhire said. "It's going to be a real hard morning for all of us. Hopefully, we'll be able to go to the ballpark and take care of business. But it's going to be tough saying goodbye. But he's watching over us. We know that." Comments