Grand slam caps Kubel's special night
Big homer makes outfielder ninth Twin to hit for cycle
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jason Kubel is known for being a stoic guy, one that doesn't show a lot of emotion no matter what the situation.But there he was on Friday night, having just hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete his first career cycle and cap off a seven-run rally for the Twins in an 11-9 victory over the Angels. And suddenly something appeared that none of his teammates could quite recall seeing -- a big, white toothy smile as he took a curtain call in front of a roaring crowd of 24,168 at the Metrodome. "I ain't seen him smile like that since he probably got drafted," Denard Span said with a laugh. "He's usually one of those stone-faced guys." No matter how Kubel is normally, it would have been hard for him not to smile considering the type of night he had. Kubel became only the ninth player in Twins history to hit for the cycle and the first to do so at the Metrodome since Kirby Puckett did it on Aug. 1, 1986, vs. Oakland. "That's not going to happen too many times," Kubel said with a laugh. "So I'll take this one and go from there." Kubel's cycle was the third cycle completed in baseball this week, as both Ian Kinsler and Orlando Hudson also accomplished the feat. It's not the first time that three cycles occurred in such a short span. Last year, three took place between Aug. 28-Sept. 1 when Cristian Guzman, Adrian Beltre and Stephen Drew turned the trick. For Kubel, his cycle began quietly enough. He doubled in a run for the Twins in the first inning with a lined shot into the left-center alley. Justin Morneau scored from first on the play and put the Twins up, 1-0. In the third, Kubel singled to right field with two outs in the inning. He then gave the Twins a little scare when he tried to slide into home plate while trying to score on Michael Cuddyer's double to right field. Kubel wouldn't immediately come to mind as a player likely to hit for the cycle, and Cuddyer joked that his running in the third is one reason why. "You definitely wouldn't expect him to hit for the cycle because he didn't score on my ball from first base," Cuddyer joked. "But no, it was a great day for him and a great day for us because of that." But Kubel got a chance to show off his speed a little bit in the sixth with his triple to right. Although he got some help from the ball bouncing around underneath the baggie in right field. At first it appeared like Kubel hesitated on his decision to leg the hit into a triple as he rounded second base. But after the game, Kubel said that his hesitation came for a different reason. "I was looking back and lost track of where the bag was," Kubel said. "I had to short step, I guess, to try to find it and then kept going." Kubel's triple led to the tying run in the sixth, but there was no question that no at-bat of the night was bigger than his grand slam in the eighth. He came to the plate with the Twins trailing, 9-7, and the bases loaded after the Angels had just intentionally walked Morneau to get to Kubel. For Kubel, the focus in his last at-bat was not on the cycle or the possibility of hitting a home run but rather on making a quality swing. He had come into similar situations before, where the opponents had pitched around Morneau to get to him, and in past seasons, Kubel said that he reacted the wrong way in those situations. "It used to really fire me up and I used to get myself out because of that," Kubel said. "I just stayed calm and knew what the circumstances were." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he immediately noticed a difference in Kubel when he took the first pitch from Angels reliever Justin Bulger, a curveball, for a called first strike. "When you get too excited, you probably jump out there and roll over that ball," Gardenhire said. "But he was staying back and going to see the ball. He took the first one and then the next one was up there and he whacked it. My only concern was I thought it was going to hit that speaker. I've seen that happen before. It was a bomb." Kubel's shot was high, but not high enough to hit a speaker hanging from the Metrodome roof. Instead, it was just high enough to get out of the park and complete the boost that he'd given the team all night with his performance. "We jumped on his back today and he carried us," Cuddyer said. Kubel also joined another rare club, becoming the first player to finish a cycle with a grand slam since Miguel Tejada did it while with he was with the A's on Sept. 29, 2001, against Seattle. All of it made for a night full of memories for Kubel. "I've never had a cycle before, not professionally," Kubel said. "It was an unbelievable moment." For Kubel, the comment was almost gushing based on his usual quiet nature. But while it was a side of Kubel they don't often see, his teammates joked that it took one of the most dramatic scenarios for that emotion to come out. "That was the biggest I've ever seen him smile and it only took a cycle with a capped-off grand slam to win the game to do it," Cuddyer said with a laugh.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.