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Polanco does it again as Twins fend off Astros

Shortstop homers, racks up 4 RBIs in second 4-hit game of season
April 23, 2019

HOUSTON -- However you measure it -- batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage -- Monday night's game between the Twins and Astros featured a clash of two of the top three offenses in the American League. Led by four hits and a late homer from Jorge Polanco, the Twins' bats

HOUSTON -- However you measure it -- batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage -- Monday night's game between the Twins and Astros featured a clash of two of the top three offenses in the American League.

Led by four hits and a late homer from Jorge Polanco, the Twins' bats continued to roll, while Jake Odorizzi largely held the potent Houston lineup in check as the Twins held off a late surge to top the Astros, 9-5, handing Houston its first loss at Minute Maid Park in 2019.

Polanco collected four hits for the fifth time in his career and second time this season, following his five-hit cycle in Philadelphia on April 5, and tied a career-high with four RBIs. All four of those runs driven in were well-timed, as his two-run single in the sixth inning extended the Twins' lead before Carlos Correa's three-run homer closed the gap and his two-run homer in the eighth gave Minnesota a pair of needed insurance runs.

"I feel good about it," Polanco said. "Sometimes, with two outs, you miss those opportunities. I'm grateful I was able to come through today."

"I don’t know what else you can say," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We talk about him being hot. Yeah, he's swinging the bat well, but it's the quality of these ABs. We talk about it every day before the game and every day after the game -- he gives himself an opportunity because he swings at good pitches, and he finds a way to get the barrel on the ball on a very consistent basis."

Headlined by Polanco's standout performance and former Astros catcher Jason Castro's first homer of 2019, the Twins' offense reached double digits in the hit column for the eighth time in 20 games this season. Castro reached base three times after adding a pair of walks, and Max Kepler also added a single and two walks in his return from illness to extend his on-base streak to 14 games.

"I don't know how the at-bats as a whole, as a collective group, can be much better through 20 games," Baldelli said. "I don't know if we can hope for anything more than what we've seen."

The Twins wasted no time in jumping on Astros starter Brad Peacock, stringing together three two-out hits in the first inning, capped by C.J. Cron's two-run double, to score in the opening frame for the third consecutive game. Cron also recorded RBIs for the third straight game.

"You want a lead against a good team like this, and I think we're starting to show that we're a pretty good team, too," Odorizzi said.

Though Odorizzi allowed a sixth-inning homer to Michael Brantley, and Carlos Correa's late three-run homer off reliever Ryne Harper briefly made it a close game an inning later, Odorizzi was effective for his second consecutive start, allowing two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings despite not generating many whiffs with his four-seam fastball, as he has done this season.

He was frustrated that he didn't make a better pitch to Brantley and couldn't complete the sixth, but was largely happy with how he mixed his pitches in his second effective start in a row.

"I try to keep guys off-balance and execute when I need to," Odorizzi said. "There was a decent amount of hits today, but I scattered them about and made big pitches when I needed to. It's a big confidence-booster moving forward to navigate with guys on base."

Momentum swings on Rosario's outfield assist
The only time that Odorizzi ran into serious trouble was in the fourth inning, when the Twins were leading, 3-0. But Brantley hit a leadoff bunt single to beat the shift, and Josh Reddick later hit a two-out RBI single to cut the Twins' lead to two.

Tyler White followed with a double to deep left, but Eddie Rosario perfectly played the strangely angled carom off the wall separating the visitors' bullpen from the field, and he uncorked an 84.8-mph throw to Jonathan Schoop, who made a perfect relay home to nail Reddick for the third out.

"That relay in the fourth inning, I think that was the turning point of the game right there," Odorizzi said. "It's either they're down one with another chance to score, or we're out of the inning. So that relay couldn't have been any more perfect. I had a great view of it."

It was Rosario's third outfield assist of the season, moving him into a tie for second place among left fielders behind Toronto's Teoscar Hernandez.

A stat that mattered

33: Byron Buxton's streak of successful stolen bases, which came to an end on Monday.

Buxton's club-record streak of 33 successful steals was finally snapped in the eighth inning, when he singled to center and attempted to swipe second base off Astros reliever Chris Devenski and catcher Robinson Chirinos, but was thrown out for the first time since May 23, 2017.

Though Buxton reached a sprint speed of 29.9 feet per second on the play, according to Statcast, Chirinos' throw was recorded at 79.8 mph, with a pop time of 2.0 seconds, enough to nab the speedy center fielder at second without a challenge from the Twins' dugout.

"It takes a lot of things to go right to throw him out," Baldelli said. "The pitcher has to be pretty quick to the plate. The catcher has to make a good throw. It has to be right there. Everything has to go right.

"His ability to make a decision, steal a base, it's basically unparalleled. I wouldn't be surprised if he started a new streak tomorrow. But it's an opportunity for him to smile and all of us to kind of acknowledge what an impressive feat it is that he’s accomplishing."

He said it
"I let them know about it. The other day, they pinch-ran Jonathan Schoop [for me], so I told him when we came here, we'd run a race and I'd show them that I'm faster." -- Nelson Cruz, who legged out two infield singles in a game for the eighth time in his career

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