MINNEAPOLIS -- As the frustration and the questions mounted among the Twins and their fans during their disappointing start to the 2021 season, few players struggled to find a spark more than Miguel Sanó.
Just wait, the Twins said. As he’s shown throughout his career, it’s only a matter of time before Sanó flips a switch and becomes capable of carrying a team.
That’s exactly what he did on a chaotic and controversial Tuesday, on a day the Twins needed a jolt after both reliever Tyler Duffey and manager Rocco Baldelli were thrown out of the game after Duffey threw behind White Sox rookie Yermín Mercedes in the seventh. Sanó singlehandedly erased a four-run deficit with the first three-homer game of his career, carrying the Twins all the way back before Jorge Polanco finished the job with a walk-off single in a 5-4 win at Target Field.
“[Sanó] has the superhuman strength and ability to really change games,” said Baldelli, who watched the end of the game from a couch in the batting cages. “There’s not many people that have had a type of ballgame like this. Coming on the heels of some of the games that he’s had, we know that this is part of who he is and what he’s capable of on a regular basis.”
Sanó’s trio of blasts, capped by a game-tying, two-run shot in the eighth inning, gave him the 13th three-homer game in Twins history, and the first since Nelson Cruz hit three against the Royals on Aug. 3, 2019.
The Twins made sure that his effort wasn’t squandered, with a combination of clutch late hitting and lockdown bullpen work that has often eluded this team. After five relievers combined for five scoreless innings, the offense got to work in the ninth, during which Minnesota had been outscored, 19-3, entering the game.
Andrelton Simmons led off with a single, Cruz moved him to second with a ground ball, Luis Arraez was intentionally walked and Josh Donaldson flew out to deep center, then Polanco hit a liner to the right-field warning track with two outs, setting off a raucous celebration.
Considering everything that has happened to the Twins over the last few days -- self-inflicted errors in a loss on Sunday, a blowout loss to a rival tinged by controversy on Monday, being swallowed by that controversy in Tuesday’s seventh inning -- they needed a jolt to right the ship and energize the fans.
Sanó provided one.
“One of the biggest [wins],” Polanco said. “I think we came together, we had good at-bats, we threw the ball good, and when you see this team coming back together, I think it's a pretty good feeling.”
Since bottoming out at a .119/.280/.209 slash line last Friday, Sanó has homered four times in four games -- including his game-winning three-run blast on Saturday against the A’s -- and has hit safely in all four.
That homer show has featured power to all fields, and his final homer Tuesday was the most impressive of them all, a rocket that traveled an estimated 412 feet to right-center field to tie the game off White Sox left-hander Aaron Bummer, who hadn’t allowed a big fly all season.
It came off Bummer’s go-to sinker at 95.3 mph -- another encouraging sign for Sanó’s continued performance, considering much of his struggles stemmed from the fact that he’d been unable to do damage against hittable fastballs in the strike zone for much of the early season.
“I’ve got my plan,” Sanó said. “I go out there, try to swing at a good pitch, pitches that I like, and try to put the ball in play. That’s what I’ve been doing. Sometimes we’re struggling, sometimes we’re lucky, but that’s part of the game.”
That followed two other homers off Lance Lynn against fastballs. Sanó’s solo blast in the fourth inning came off the cutter, which he deposited on the left-field home run porch. He crushed a four-seamer to the center-field berm two innings later.
Sanó was so confident that he even called his shots in the dugout.
“That's something crazy and unbelievable, but I told myself and I told [José] Berríos, 'Hey, if he throws me a cutter inside, I hit it to left field. If he throws me the sinker middle-in, I might hit it to the middle. If somebody comes in, I might hit it oppo,’” Sanó said.
Sanó almost nailed those predictions as hard as he nailed those baseballs.
“He went to the plate with that mindset, with his plan,” Polanco said. “It's good to see him succeed."