TORONTO — Canadian slugger Justin Morneau still gets nervous returning to his home country to play the Blue Jays.
You wouldn’t know it by the results.
Morneau, of New Westminster, B.C., hit two home runs to power the Minnesota Twins to an 8-3 victory over Toronto on Monday night. The 2006 American League MVP, who has 11 homers on the season, went 3-for-4 to improve his batting average to a sparkling .374.
Morneau said he still felt a surge of adrenalin before his first at-bat in front of 13,892 fans at the Rogers Centre. He took a deep breath before walking to the plate and was in control after that.
“Sometimes that adrenalin is the thing that can get you in trouble,” Morneau said. “You start rushing, you start trying to do too much.
“Sometimes the more relaxed you are, the better you are.”
With the Twins up 5-3 in the sixth inning, Morneau hit a solo shot to give the Twins (24-14) some breathing room. He added a two-run blast in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
“This is a place where I didn’t have a lot of success early in my career,” Morneau said. “I think I was oh-fer the first series I came here and then 1-for-12 or whatever the second time I came here. So it’s a lot of fun when you can come in and help win a ball game, especially here.”
Kevin Slowey (5-3) went five innings for the win. Dana Eveland (3-3) gave up five runs — three of them earned — over four-plus innings as the Jays had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Delmon Young hit a solo shot for the Twins and Joe Mauer added three hits and two runs.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said the 3-4 punch of Mauer and Morneau is tough to handle.
“They can play,” Gaston said. “Left-handers don’t scare them off either. They hit everybody. Two great players over there.”
Jose Bautista, the American League player of the week, hit a two-run homer for Toronto. It was his 11th of the season and fourth homer in his last three games. Vernon Wells had three hits for the Blue Jays.
Alex Burnett, Matt Guerrier and Toronto native Jesse Crain were steady in relief for Minnesota. The Twins had 12 hits on the night, one more than Toronto.
The American League Central-leading Twins took advantage of some sloppy defence to put up four runs in the fourth inning.
With two outs in the frame, Denard Span got the rally started with a double to left field. Former Jay Orlando Hudson brought him home with a single before moving to third on a Joe Mauer single. Morneau then put the Twins ahead to stay with an RBI single to right.
On the next at-bat, Michael Cuddyer hit a grounder that could have ended the inning, but Lyle Overbay couldn’t squeeze the ball on Bautista’s low throw. The Toronto first baseman made it two errors in one play when his throw to third base sailed wide, allowing Morneau to score and Cuddyer to advance to second. After a wild pitch and base on balls to Jason Kubel, Young grounded to short and Kubel was forced out to end the frame.
The boobirds were out in force after that.
“I wanted to short-hop it but I knew it was going to be close so I tried to catch it in the air,” Overbay said. “And when they’re on the end of the glove, it’s just one of those things. It’s frustrating because it’s a tough play. I should have let it bounce, took the short hop.”
For Morneau, he’s on pace to put up numbers that would be close to his 2006 campaign.
“It’s hard to argue with ’06,” he said. “That was a three- or four-month stretch where I think everything was falling in and I felt good pretty much every day walking up to the plate. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, there’s still four-and-a-half months left.
“So hopefully we’ll just keep this going as long as we can.”
He added the simple approach is paying off.
“Days like today, sometimes you look back on these for what you were doing right,” Morneau said. “The old cliche is sometimes less is more.”
NOTES: Wells’ first-inning single moved him into sole possession of second place on the team’s all-time hits list with 1,414. Tony Fernandez leads with 1,583. ... It was the 13th multi-homer game of Morneau’s career. ... Jays outfielder Travis Snider missed the game due to a wrist injury. He’s scheduled to undergo an MRI in Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was activated before the game after a month-long stint on the DL with shoulder soreness. ... The teams will close out their two-game series Tuesday afternoon (12:37 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet). ... Outfielder Adam Calderone of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the Jays’ double-A affiliate — was named Eastern League player of the week Monday. He hit .393 last week with four homers and 11 RBIs in seven games.