Julien gets first MLB hit, HR -- both in 9-run first

Twins' No. 4 prospect has breakout game in Minnesota's surprising, satisfying rout in Bronx

April 14th, 2023

NEW YORK -- The Twins expect big things from top prospect , who could be a fixture at the top of their lineup for years to come.

But never in their wildest dreams could they have expected something like this.

Julien, the No. 95 prospect in baseball, assumed the Twins’ leadoff role for the very first time in front of more than 20 friends and family members at Yankee Stadium -- and checked off not one, but two milestones in the first inning, collecting both his first career hit and his first career homer as part of a nine-run frame that also featured back-to-back-to-back Minnesota blasts and keyed an 11-2 Twins victory in Thursday’s series opener.

Julien is the fourth hitter since 1974 to collect his first career hit and first career home run in the same inning, per OptaStats. The last player to accomplish that feat had been Aramis Garcia, who did so for the Giants in 2018.

“You kind of have pressure to get the first one out of the way,” Julien said. “And then right after, just to get a homer, I couldn’t write a better script. It was an unforgettable moment.”

Perhaps it was Julien’s influence from the top spot. Perhaps it was having both the banged-up and  back in the lineup. Perhaps it was the Twins simply unleashing a half-decade of pent-up frustration here, considering their 2-16 record at Yankee Stadium since 2017.

The end result: the highest-scoring frame in club history against the Yankees.

If this served as a preview of what a potential long-term future could look like in Minnesota with Julien, Correa and Buxton stacked atop the lineup, it couldn’t have gone much better for the Twins, who escorted Yankees starter Jhony Brito from the game after he got only two outs in nine batters faced.

“Rocco [Baldelli] showed me the lineup today,” Correa said. “He said, ‘We're going to put Julien leadoff.’ I said, 'I love it.' He's a great bat. He walks. He barrels the ball. You can't ask anything else from a leadoff guy.”

Julien got one milestone out of the way quickly by roping a 104.4 mph liner off the right-field wall for a single, followed by Correa’s infield single and Buxton’s walk.

“Nice to have pretty good protection, right?” Julien said with a laugh. “Buxton and Correa, two of the best hitters in the big leagues. Look, my job is just to get on base and get in scoring position for them to drive me in.”

Here’s what followed: sac fly, double, double, groundout, double. It was already 5-0 at that point -- but Julien and the Twins were far from done.

smashed a two-run blast to straightaway center for his second homer of the season, bringing Julien back to the plate. The Twins’ No. 4 prospect took the opportunity to show off his power to all fields, mashing a 351-foot fly ball to left that dropped into the first row of the bleachers, driving the Québécois cheering section into a frenzy. For many, it was their first time watching Julien play.

“Every night that I have family in town, or just friends, I’m trying to put on a show for them,” Julien said. “And I have a little more extra pressure, because I’m not only playing in front of people I don’t know; I’m playing in front of friends.”

At that point, a shellshocked Yankee Stadium crowd barely had time to greet Correa with a chorus of boos before he, too, bashed a homer to right-center in his first game back in the lineup following a four-game absence with back tightness, completing the nine-run frame with the Twins’ third consecutive blast.

The last time the Twins hit back-to-back-to-back homers had also been against the Yankees, when Luis Arraez, Buxton and Correa opened a game with three blasts off Gerrit Cole at Target Field last June 9.

“Honestly, I’ve never been a part of an inning -- especially right at the beginning of a game -- like that,” Baldelli said. “That’s beyond setting the tone.”

Given the history between these teams, particularly at this ballpark, Thursday had to go down as one of the more improbable evenings in recent team history -- and Julien was there to prime it.

“I told [long reliever] Cole Sands before the game, ‘Hey, get ready to pitch today, because we're going to score 10 runs,’” Correa said. “I didn't expect them to come in the first inning.”