MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins finally got the chance to spend Monday recuperating on an off-day at home -- a much-needed respite after a grueling stretch of their schedule featuring 13 games in 13 days, including last Tuesday’s 17-inning marathon against the Red Sox.
It certainly looks like that break helped.
The Twins emerged from the off-day with fresh energy on offense, teeing off against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and one of the league’s top pitching staffs for 15 hits, including four from Eddie Rosario and three from Willians Astudillo and Mitch Garver. In doing so, the Twins’ offense shrugged off a sluggish week to cruise to a 9-4 win over the Rays on Tuesday night at Target Field.
“I think our guys looked fresh, but I also think you can feel the energy,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Like we’ve talked about a lot, we’ve played a lot of games, and our guys have given a really good effort over this long stretch. ... They’re ready to play when they come back, and our guys definitely were ready to play today.”
Though the Twins had been held to one run or fewer three times in their previous seven games, including twice on their recent road trip to Kansas City, they showed no signs of that early in Tuesday’s contest, tagging Snell for seven runs on a career-worst 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings, with a pair of RBI singles by Rosario contributing to five-hit rallies in both the third and fourth innings.
For one game, at least, the Twins also reversed their misfortunes from the last homestand with men in scoring position, going 7-for-15 on Tuesday night in such situations and stranding only seven men on base despite the 15 hits and two walks.
“If [Snell] makes good, quality pitches, life is difficult,” Baldelli said. “But our guys continued on with good at-bats, forced him to stay in the zone and make good pitch after good pitch.”
Two of Rosario’s four hits came in such situations, and the notoriously streaky outfielder looks to be heating up at the right time with his second four-hit game in a week, with the Starters Election for the 2019 All-Star Game set to begin this morning.
Despite embracing the “Bomba Squad” moniker this season, the Twins again showed their ability to score without hitting the long ball as they singled Snell into submission, with nine singles in the second to fourth innings alone. What’s more, they used the entire field to do so, with four of those hits going to the opposite field.
"[Snell’s] a good pitcher,” Rosario said. “In the first inning, I know that everybody saw that he's aggressive. He came in aggressive today on the fastball. It's simple: everybody the next inning tried to be ready for the fastball. I'm fighting for good at-bats."
In defeating Snell, the Twins claimed victory against their sixth Cy Young Award-winning pitcher this season, adding Snell to a growing list that also features Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and David Price.
Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson was dominant for most of his outing, allowing only one hit through his first five frames before he was tagged for four runs in the sixth and seventh innings of what had previously been a blowout.
“I don’t know if it’s just throwing a different pitch or what, but they were executed pitches and, unfortunately, they were finding holes,” Gibson said. “But the offense did a great job, defense did a great job of giving us that cushion and it allowed me to be aggressive and stay in the zone there.”
The adventures of La Tortuga
Sure, Astudillo clubbed three hits, including an RBI infield single in the second inning, a double in the fourth and a solid single in the fifth.
But his highlight of the game came on defense in the third inning, when Astudillo, playing right field, drifted into foul territory to chase a high popup by Travis d’Arnaud and made a leaping grab against the wall before face-planting into the ground and drawing applause from both Gibson and C.J. Cron.
"I knew the ball was kind of a semi-foul ball, but I knew it was going to be inside [the park], so I was looking at the wall, looking at the ball, and I was able to catch it,” Astudillo said.
“When Willians is out there making plays like he does, it’s about the people,” Baldelli said. “It’s about the people who enjoy watching him play, and he just continually does stuff every single time he’s out there and makes people smile. He makes the plays, though. So he goes out there, he’s having fun, and again, we’ve got another highlight to throw up on the big screen.”
A stat that mattered
37: Jorge Polanco’s on-base streak, the longest in the Major Leagues this season
Polanco’s third-inning single to left field extended his on-base streak to a career-high 37 games dating back to May 13, passing Chuck Knoblauch and Tony Oliva for the fifth-longest streak in Twins history. He is one game short of tying Paul Molitor for the fourth-longest streak, at 38 games. Joe Mauer’s 43-game streak in 2015 is the club record.