MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' winning pace had slowed down in the past month and the Indians tightened the gap on the division lead, but there was never any panic in Minnesota's clubhouse -- only a steadfast belief that the big hits would start falling again. The Twins showed a flash of that early-season magic again on Monday night in an 8-6 win over the Yankees at Target Field.
“It’s not how we exactly anticipated to go about the first inning,” Mitch Garver said of the triple play. “I was happy to get two right there, but three was even better. To carry that over into the first inning for us, to go hit a little bit and hit two homers, it’s a great way to start."
Led by the early outburst and a two-homer effort from Garver, the Twins clubbed five home runs to hold off the American League-leading Yankees. It marked the eighth game of the season for the Twins with five or more homers, and their first since June 29 against the White Sox. The 1977 Red Sox were the only other team in Major League history to record eight games of at least five homers in a season.
For the 2019 Twins, at least, the record five-homer game was a welcome sight for an offense that was struggling to find hits in clutch situations. All along, manager Rocco Baldelli had insisted that the at-bats and plate approaches were still strong, and that the results would eventually come.
That’s what happened on Monday.
“We got a chance to see the results tonight, and the guys swung the bats great,” Baldelli said. “They gave us a cushion that we could lean on. This is just kind of showing the types of at-bats that we’ve had recently and you could also say the entire year. I think this is a night where you do see the results.”
The back-to-back homers by Polanco and Cruz in the first inning were followed by Max Kepler’s 25th homer of the season in the fourth, and Garver’s solo shots in the fourth and sixth.
Garver now has 19 homers as a catcher this season, tying the Cubs’ Willson Contreras for the most in the Major Leagues. His fourth-inning shot left the bat with an exit velocity of 89 mph, the fourth-weakest homer in the Major Leagues this season that left the yard, and projected at 347 feet, while his sixth-inning blast was estimated at a healthier 100.7 mph and 383 feet.
“We needed a few of those early,” Garver said. “It was just a great game. I mean, they were punching back just the way we were. We get two, they get two, we get three, they get three, you know? It was just a really good ballgame, and our guys just battled really hard and we were able to pull it off there.”
The Twins’ 28-year-old catcher also knocked an infield single in the third inning as part of a 3-for-4 evening, improving his season line to .304/.385/.674 with 19 homers and eight doubles in 52 games. Monday marked his third multi-homer game of the season, and he now has seven homers in 11 July games.
“He’s a strong guy, but he’s got an incredibly short stroke,” Baldelli said. “He can get to some pitches that not everyone gets the barrel to. He makes the pitcher work. ... He’s carried us at times in multiple ways. So I think he’s certainly earned everything that he’s doing right now, and he’s turned into a well above average Major League player.”
Though Twins starter Martin Pérez allowed five runs, including three homers, the Twins’ offense stayed just out of reach of the Bronx Bombers with the homers and a three-run third inning, fueled by a bases-loaded catcher’s interference and a pair of RBI groundouts.
Longtime Twins nemesis CC Sabathia was tagged for four of the Twins’ five homers, the second-most he has allowed in a start during his 19-year Major League career. He had been 20-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 39 career starts against Minnesota entering Tuesday.
“Obviously, a super-talented team over there, as is Oakland, as is Houston, as is L.A.,” Garver said. “Those are the teams that you’re going to have to play at the end of the season if you want to hold up the trophy at the end. These are the games that are really good for us, because we’re playing against the top level, midseason, kind of coming down that stretch, and it’s good to kind of channel your emotions and be able to play the game the right way.”