MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins’ power show continued its relentless climb into uncharted territory on Friday night, when Luis Arraez's second-inning solo homer off Rangers starter Adrian Sampson gave Minnesota 162 homers as a team, setting an MLB record for the most blasts before the All-Star break.
Four batters later, Jorge Polanco added a two-run homer as part of a six-run rally to extend the record with No. 163. Jonathan Schoop then tacked on a no-doubter to the upper deck in left-center in the fifth inning and Mitch Garver added a seventh-inning solo blast to push the total to 165, as the Twins rolled to a 15-6 victory at Target Field.
The previous homer mark prior to the break was held by last season’s Yankees club, which belted 161 in the first half.
“You could point to basically every guy that we have for some really impressive contributions,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think the diversity in our lineup, with guys that do a lot of different things, is something that we can point to as a reason for some of the success. The numbers that we’ve put up to this point, some of them are pretty unbelievable. We’ll give the guys credit. They’ve earned it.”
The homer mark wasn’t the only record that fell in the series opener, which was delayed by 1 hour, 12 minutes at the start. The Twins also clubbed nine doubles, their most in a game since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. Their 13 extra-base hits also tied the club record, previously set on April 20 against the Orioles.
“Again, I haven’t seen many performances like it, and we’ve done it time after time,” Baldelli said. “It doesn’t change the way we prepare, it doesn’t change the guys’ mindsets -- no one gets big-headed anyway -- but we just show up and do our jobs, and that’s what our guys do.”
Only 87 games into the season, the 2019 Twins already stand alone with the 13th-most homers in franchise history -- only one shy of last season’s total of 166. Minnesota is on pace for 307 homers, which would shatter the single-season franchise (225) and Major League (267) marks.
“It’s something special to be part of,” said Jonathan Schoop, who had two doubles, four RBIs and a homer that went a projected 428 feet, according to Statcast. “I’ve been on a team in 2016, where eight guys hit 20 home runs. This team has a chance to do that. This team has a chance to be something special.”
The offensive outburst couldn’t have come at a better time.
Minnesota had just scuffled its way through its first consecutive series losses of the season and its first losing road trip of 2019, and in the return home against a tough Rangers squad, the Twins clubbed a season-high 20 hits and had multiple hits from every spot in their lineup, headlined by three-hit games from Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, and multiple extra-base hits from Byron Buxton, C.J. Cron and Garver.
“It was a challenging road trip in some ways, and there was a lot going on,” Baldelli said. “You can generally feel it after the first good swing or the second good swing, or the second good at-bat. The energy is good and the guys feed off each other, and it was beautiful."
Perez dominates former team
Twins starter Martin Perez had been looking forward to this outing against his former team.
The lefty pitched a gem, allowing only four hits in the first six innings before he was charged with four runs in the seventh inning.
“They're trying to talk to me all game, and they're trying to play around with me, but I was staying with my focus and attacking the hitters,” said Perez, who spent seven seasons with the Rangers.
It’s well known that Perez has tweaked his mechanics to add some velocity to his fastball and he has added a new cutter to his arsenal, but the 29-year-old’s former teammates got to see the new Perez firsthand on Friday. He used that new cutter most frequently as he attacked the strike zone and collected three strikeouts before he exited in the seventh inning after 94 pitches.
"Elvis [Andrus] -- every time he got to the plate, I threw a cutter in, and he was looking at me, and I know how he looks at me to say, 'That's a good pitch, man,'” Perez said. “Now, they know. I just enjoyed it and had fun out there, and gave quality stuff to give a chance to my teammates to score some runs and win the game."
If the shoe fits …
Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz was removed in the fourth inning with what was originally characterized as right heel discomfort, but Baldelli said after the game that the discomfort in Cruz’s foot was simply caused by his shoe being too tight.
Cruz will be evaluated again when he arrives at the ballpark on Saturday morning, but Baldelli said Cruz was fine when he left the game.
“He loves his shoes,” Baldelli said. “But when you get brand new shoes, sometimes, it happens.”
Cruz, who turned 39 on Monday, had doubled as part of a six-run rally in the second inning, but he was lifted for pinch-hitter Miguel Sano for his next plate appearance in the fourth inning.