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Plouffe has blast in return as Twins top KC

July 14, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — After spending six weeks at Triple-A Rochester, it only took one game for Trevor Plouffe to show why the Twins recalled him for the second half of the season.

With a runner on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, Plouffe crushed a 1-2 slider from Royals lefty Bruce Chen, just keeping it fair down the left-field line for a two-run go-ahead home run in the Twins’ 8-4 victory at Target Field.

Plouffe was swinging a hot bat in Triple-A before he was called up, and that carried over in his return to the big league club.

“That’s what he’s been doing down there, the guy made a mistake, he clicked on it and put it in the seats,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s why we brought him up here.”

Plouffe, playing his first game for the Twins since June 1, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. It was Plouffe’s fourth home run of the year for the Twins, after blasting 15 for the Red Wings.

Following a two-out walk by Michael Cuddyer, the Twins came through with back-to-back RBI doubles before Plouffe’s blast put them in front to stay.

Left fielder Delmon Young saw first-hand during his rehab stint what Plouffe was doing in Rochester before the callup, referring to it as a “Babe Ruth-like performance.”

Asked where his power stroke has come from this season, Plouffe said it’s just a better understanding of what he’s doing at the plate.

“I’m 25 now, so grown-man strength I think they call it,” Plouffe said with a laugh. “I think it’s just maturity and learning my swing.

“Staying behind the ball a little bit better, realizing when I can take chances on pitches and when I need to be in a defensive mode. In those offensive counts, I think that if you can take a good offensive swing at a good pitch, and the right pitch, that’s where the power comes in.”

Young also was back in the lineup on Thursday for the first time since suffering a right ankle sprain in Milwaukee on June 25. Looking even better at the plate than he did before the injury, Young went 3-for-4, doubling twice with an RBI and a run scored.

Since June 9, Young is hitting at a .393 clip with five doubles in 15 games.

“It always feel good to get three hits,” Young said. “But it’s good that we have a chance to be in a pennant race and we came out and took care of business in Game 1. We’ll try to come out here [Friday] and do the same thing.”

Plouffe and Young led the way as the Twins tallied nine hits off Chen, plating four runs.

The Twins also drew three walks off Chen, including two in the first, as they threatened to score in each of the first four innings, but were unable to convert until Chen’s final inning in the fifth.

“Bruce wasn’t sharp,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Nobody was very sharp tonight on the pitching side of it. Bruce was in and out of trouble, really, in every inning and in the fifth he got two quick outs, then the walk and then the roof caved in.”

Thanks in large part to the performances of Plouffe and Young, Twins lefty Francisco Liriano came away with a victory despite some early struggles of his own. Liriano gave up just one earned run on the night, but played a major role in the Royals’ two unearned runs in the first inning.

One pitch away from getting the third out, Liriano spiked a slider in the dirt, that got by catcher Joe Mauer, allowing a run to score. Mauer flipped the ball back in Liriano’s direction, but it got away, plating a second run on the throwing error.

Liriano settled in after the first, going seven innings and giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

“I think I was rushing a little bit in the first inning and trying to be too perfect,” Liriano said. “I was overthrowing, so I told myself, ‘Calm down, settle down, hit your spot.'”

After their big four-run fifth inning, the Twins added four more in the seventh for good measure. With the bases loaded and one out, Ben Revere walked in a run, Alexi Casilla was hit by a pitch to bring another home, and Mauer plated a pair with a single to the gap in right.

When Plouffe was last in the Majors, the Twins were at their lowest point of the season at 17-37 and 16 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central. The Twins have gone 25-11 since, getting back to six games under .500 for the first time since May 6 and just six games behind the division-leading Indians and Tigers.

“It’s awesome,” Plouffe said. “It was tough earlier in the year when we were out like that showing up to the park.

“When I was down, to see these guys turn it around like they did was really cool. That was also motivating, I wanted to be a part of it.”

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

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