MINNEAPOLIS -- Throughout this season, Joe Mauer has shown flashes of his former All-Star self while grinding out at-bats atop the Twins' lineup. On Tuesday, he showed there's still a little pop left in his bat, too.Mauer crushed a towering grand slam in the fifth inning vs. Yankees righty Jonathan
MINNEAPOLIS -- Throughout this season, Joe Mauer has shown flashes of his former All-Star self while grinding out at-bats atop the Twins' lineup. On Tuesday, he showed there's still a little pop left in his bat, too.
Mauer crushed a towering grand slam in the fifth inning vs. Yankees righty Jonathan Loaisiga to bust the game open and give the Twins a nine-run lead en route a 10-5 win at Target Field.
Mauer's fifth career grand slam had a projected distance of 419 feet and left the bat at 104.1 mph, according to Statcast™. The dinger also tied Mauer with Tony Oliva for fourth on the Twins' all-time extra-base hit list at 597.
With the 20,343 fans in attendance still buzzing after Mauer reached the dugout, Twins bench coach Derek Shelton knew the crowd wouldn't let Mauer off the hook without a curtain call and told him he better head back out to the field.
"Well, it hasn't really happened a whole lot to be honest over a career," Mauer said of the ovation. "But I've had a couple as of late, and it's a pretty cool moment with the fans and the players. I've seen a few of 'em, and yeah it's pretty special. … It was kind of fun. Like I said, I felt kind of excited, and you could tell the crowd was going crazy, but you don't really hear it. You're in that moment, I guess."
The long ball capped off a six-run inning in which the Twins batted around. Minnesota hitters drew three walks during the frame and Willians Astudillo poked an RBI single.
Jake Cave, who was drafted by the Yankees in 2011 before being shipped to Minnesota this spring, cracked a two-run single in the third to give the Twins a 3-1 lead. An inning later, Jorge Polanco tacked on another run with an RBI double.
Didi Gregorius kept the Yankees in contention with a grand slam of his own in the sixth inning off reliever Trevor May, who had inherited a bases-loaded jam from Kohl Stewart. May ensured that the rally stopped there, though, and struck out Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit to end the inning.
Taylor Rogers threw two perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, and Trevor Hildenberger struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to close out the game.
Since the start of the month, the Twins have occasionally experimented with deploying an "opener" on the mound to toss the first inning or two of games. On Tuesday, Minnesota ran with the strategy for the third time this season and found some positive results. Tyler Duffey held New York to one run over two innings before handing the game off to Stewart.
"Obviously, the first pitch of the game is different than coming in in the eighth," Duffey said. "When we were walking out, [pitching coach Garvin Alston] was saying, 'Treat it like the eighth or ninth. Don't come into it as a starter. Treat it as we planned, attack them as you would normally.' And after throwing that first pitch slider, at the time it felt weird, but I threw that and it put me in the mode of, 'OK, attack guys.' We did a pretty good job of mixing it up, and I got a good double-play ball when I needed to."
Stewart took over in the third and issued five walks over 3 1/3 innings as he battled spotty command. But he benefited from double plays in both the fourth and fifth innings to keep his scoresheet clean until Gregorius' sixth-inning slam. Stewart wasn't pleased with the lack of feel for his pitches, but he still picked up his first career win.
"I'm just glad we got the win, you know, as a team," Stewart said. "It's kinda crazy that today I felt worse than I have all year up here and ended up getting the win. Glad the team won. Offense did a really good job tonight, and then the bullpen kept us there. It was good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the fourth inning, the Yankees quickly loaded the bases against Stewart on a single and two walks. Sanchez, who crushed a massive 460-foot home run a night earlier, stepped to the plate with one out and a chance to erase Minnesota's 3-1 lead. But Stewart got ahead of Sanchez in the count and got the All-Star catcher to roll into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
HE SAID IT
"I understand it, yes. It feels different. There's no way around it. A starter coming out of the bullpen, a reliever starting the game, it goes against what we're used to doing, basically. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just saying it's different. It worked today. If it works the next time around or doesn't, who knows? It's something that can work. It has the possibility of being good. We'll see what happens."-- Duffey, on whether he believes using an "opener" and "primary pitcher" gives a team an advantage
The Twins will close out their three-game set with the Yankees at 7:10 p.m. CT Wednesday at Target Field. Jake Odorizzi will get the nod for Minnesota in search of a bounce-back start. Odorizzi struggled last time out against Houston, surrendering five runs over 4 2/3 innings. All-Star righty Luis Severino (17-7, 3.52 ERA) will start for the Yankees.
Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minnesota.