MINNEAPOLIS -- Miguel Sanó’s third-inning solo homer to Target Field’s upper deck in left field propelled the Twins to their first lead in their 11-4 rout of the White Sox on Friday -- and also towards the top of baseball’s record books.
After Eddie Rosario hit No. 99 of the season for Minnesota earlier in the inning, Sano’s homer marked the club's 100th homer of the season, making the Twins only the second team in Major League history to reach the century mark in the club’s first 50 games of the season. Max Kepler smashed another solo shot an inning later to bring the Twins’ total to an MLB-leading 101, within one of the mark set by the 1999 Mariners, who clubbed 102 long balls through the first 50 games.
The Twins are on pace for 327 homers this season, putting them in line to shatter not only the club record of 225, set by the 1963 Twins, but also the MLB record of 267, set by the Yankees last season.
The Twins’ 34-16 record ties the mark for most wins through 50 games in franchise history.
“The way these games are playing out, we just try to keep it rolling,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We try to keep doing what we're doing. We don't get caught up in a lot of the things going on. It's good it's being talked about because it has been impressive and guys are doing a great job. But in the clubhouse, it's more about how do we do it again the next game.”
Though the 2019 Twins have hit the long ball at a prolific pace, they have by no means been solely reliant on homers for their offensive production, as they showed in their 12-hit outburst against the White Sox on Friday, leading to their fourth straight win and ninth in their last 10 games.
Rosario and Kepler each homered for the second straight game, but the long balls were far from the whole story. Rosario also had two singles and a double with three RBIs as part of his first four-hit game of the season, while Kepler also fell a triple shy of the cycle and drove in four during a three-hit game.
At least one of Rosario or Kepler collected an RBI in each of the first five innings as the Twins hurriedly erased a 4-1 deficit in the second inning with 10 unanswered runs from the second to the seventh frames. At one point, the Twins had scored in nine consecutive innings between Thursday’s and Friday’s wins.
“I don't think it really fazes us,” Kepler said. “We know runs will be scored on this team. That's a given. We kind of just stay in the present within each at-bat and within each pitch and just try to make the most out of it. That's all we can do. And we know this team offensively can score as many runs as we've seen in the last couple of days.”
The thing is, the Twins have just been hitting lots of balls hard all over the place, as attested to by their 11.2-percent barrel rate entering Friday, the best in baseball by a wide margin.
Many of them leave the yard. Plenty of others find gaps, as exemplified by Minnesota’s six doubles on Friday, which extended their American League-leading doubles total to 108. The Twins now have 212 extra-base hits this season and a .521 team slugging percentage, both of which also pace the Major Leagues.
"I saw that in Spring Training,” Rosario said. “I think when we finished Spring Training, I said, 'Hey, this team is the one tonight where the lineup is hitting bombs, the speed, everything.' Now, everything is connecting together. It's awesome. That's the key.'"
What’s more, in an age of ever-climbing strikeout rates, the Twins have been flexing all of this power with the third-fewest strikeouts in the Major Leagues entering Friday night’s game.
It’s one thing for Baldelli to continually talk about his hitters having quality at-bats, and for the hitters to talk about simply waiting for good pitches and hitting them hard. But that’s much easier said than done, and yet, the Twins seem to have found approaches that work well for hitters as different as Kepler, Rosario, Sano or Byron Buxton, all of whom are locked in at the plate.
Baldelli refused to elaborate more on the actual preparation that goes into that, and with things working as well as they are against pitching staffs across the league, it’s hard to blame him.
“As far as getting into specifics as I stand here right now, I prefer to probably leave it as we prepare each of our players individually according to whatever plan works best for them,” Baldelli said.
“That could mean something very different for each guy, and it does sometimes. What we are seeing is just good quality at bats up and down the lineup, a lineup that isn't giving in at any point. Our goal is to just make the pitcher work and eventually see what happens. And good things have happened.”
He said it
“Yeah, [pitching coach Wes Johnson] comes to me and look at me like, ‘Hey, you’re the man, so believe in yourself. You are Jose Berrios, so you have to attack the hitter, believe in your pitches,’ and that’s what I did. I know I didn’t strike out a lot, but I believed in my pitches.” -- Berrios, on Johnson’s mound visit in the second inning. Berrios allowed four runs -- three unearned -- in the second frame before his command and execution improved in the remainder of his 6 2/3-inning start.