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Schoop makes Bomba Squad 1st to 300 HRs

Twins' 99th win helps Baldelli tie franchise mark for rookie manager
@dohyoungpark
September 26, 2019

DETROIT -- With the American League Central title in hand and three games remaining in which the Twins hope to rest most of their starters before postseason play, what exactly remains to play for in the closing days of the 2019 season? How about another home run milestone? • Box

DETROIT -- With the American League Central title in hand and three games remaining in which the Twins hope to rest most of their starters before postseason play, what exactly remains to play for in the closing days of the 2019 season?

How about another home run milestone?

Box score

Even in a sleepy post-clincher day game at Comerica Park in which the Twins emptied their bench to scrape together a starting lineup, the Bomba Squad found another record-breaking jolt. Jonathan Schoop crushed a two-run homer to left field in the seventh inning to make the Twins the first team in Major League history to hit 300 in a season as they piled on for a 10-4 win and a sweep of the Tigers on Thursday.

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Minutes later, Willians Astudillo added a solo shot over the bullpens in left field for No. 301, capping his first career four-hit game.

"It's not only me, so I cannot take the credit for myself,” Schoop said. “I cannot hit 300 home runs by myself. It's my teammates. I'm lucky enough that I hit the 300th home run, but it's all teamwork. We're all in history because we all did it together. I'm happy. I'm happy that I did it, but it's teamwork.”

Consider also that the victory marked the Twins’ 99th of the season, the second-highest total in club history and their most since 1965, when Minnesota set the club record by finishing the regular season at 102-60 before losing to the Dodgers in the World Series. The Twins can match that record finish with a sweep of the Royals in Kansas City to close out the season, though that won’t necessarily be the club’s focus.

“That’s a lot of wins,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before Thursday’s game. “We’ve put ourselves in a really good position. Where we’re sitting now is exactly where we wanted to be. We’re going to get ourselves lined up as best we can going forward, and I hope that leads to some wins. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing we can really do about that, but that’s OK.”

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With Thursday’s win, Baldelli also tied the franchise record for most by a rookie manager, matching the 99 by Joe Cronin’s 1933 Washington Senators.

So, between the race to 102 wins and the chance for the Bomba Squad to hold off the Yankees in the battle for home run supremacy, there’s still plenty of history left to be made by this squad during the remainder of the season.

“Even though we’re at this point and we’ve reached some of our goals at this point in the year, our guys still want to keep it going and not miss a beat, and that’s what happened today,” Baldelli said.

Comerica Park had also been the setting for the Twins’ most significant blast of the season on Aug. 31, when Mitch Garver cranked a solo homer to left field for the Twins’ 268th home run, setting an all-time record for a season.

But the Yankees had quickly closed the gap on the Twins since then, and the clubs entered Thursday tied atop the Major League standings at 299 homers apiece. Schoop’s towering blast off reliever José Cisnero, which traveled a Statcast-projected 371 feet over the left-field fence, ensured that the Twins beat the Yankees to the 300 mark.

Schoop’s milestone blast was a unique shot among the 300 blasts, too: By leaving the bat at an angle of 44 degrees, it marked the highest bomba launched by the Twins this season.

“Got it up there pretty good, and it’s very cool,” Baldelli said. “The milestones have been coming. Our offense has been tremendous all year long. We know that. But they’re still coming, and our guys want to finish strong.”

"Yeah, we know [that the Yankees are catching up],” Schoop said. “But you don't go out there just to hit home runs. We go out there trying to take good at-bats. Whatever happens, happens. But we're just trying to take some good at-bats."

Clinch creates opportunities for rookies
One big upside of Wednesday night’s division clinch was that several of the younger players on the roster should have increased opportunities due to the Twins’ desire to rest many of their starters.

Rookie outfielder Ian Miller, who received his first callup in September to serve primarily as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner, earned the first start of his Major League career and took advantage with his first two career hits. His first knock was an RBI single in the third inning, and he added a solid hit to right field in the fifth.

"I put a little pressure on myself to really try to get the hit, but also, I came here to play some defense and run a little bit, so every at-bat I get is just an extra that I wasn't expecting,” Miller said. “If it never happened, if it never came, I'm still cool with what I'm doing. I'm just grateful to be here. It's a dream come true."

Another one of those firsts came in the ninth inning, when Jorge Alcalá recorded his first career strikeout in a perfect inning to close out the victory. It wasn’t just any strikeout, either, as the slider on the inside corner locked up decorated slugger Miguel Cabrera for a punchout that the 24-year-old right-hander won’t soon forget.

“These are very special moments, and backing it up after last night makes it a really, really nice weekend for us,” Baldelli said.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.