Rosario enters Twins record books with 10th HR

April 24th, 2019

HOUSTON -- When Rocco Baldelli was first thinking about his lineup for Tuesday night’s game, there was actually discussion about giving the day off, but Rosario was having none of that.

"I wanted to try to play the best team in the Major Leagues,” Rosario said. “I want to win this series. I want to play. You give me a later day off, it's OK, but I wanted to play against this team."

“It’s not always going to work like that where he ends up back in the lineup, but he did,” Baldelli said.

As he often does, Rosario rose to the occasion -- this time, a historic one.

With his first-inning three-run home run on Tuesday, Rosario became the first Twins player to hit 10 homers before May 1. Rosario's opposite-field homer off Astros starter Wade Miley reached the Crawford Boxes in left field and gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead, marking the fourth consecutive game in which the Twins scored in the first inning.

Though Rosario got the Twins off to another fast start, Miley and the Astros’ pitching staff finally cooled off Minnesota’s bats in a 10-4 loss at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night.

Torii Hunter held the previous record for most homers by a Twins player in March and April, when he hit nine long balls in the first month in 2002.

“I'm really proud for myself,” Rosario said. “The first time a Twins player has 10 homers before May. I feel proud. That's what I want to say. It's good for me to break a couple of records for the organization. I want to put my name in the Twins' organization."

Rosario also impacted the game with his arm, recording an outfield assist for the second night in a row. He helped limit the damage in the Astros’ fifth-inning, go-ahead rally by throwing out Alex Bregman at second base as the Houston third baseman tried to stretch his two-run single into a double.

Rosario now has six homers in his last six games, including back-to-back two-homer games on April 18 and April 20. He also has the most homers in Twins history through the first 21 games of the season. Twins legends Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett each had eight homers through the first 21 games of the 1982 and ‘86 seasons, respectively.

All of Rosario’s homers have come since April 6. His 10 dingers in that period lead the Majors, while his 21 RBIs in that span are tied for the Major League lead with reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Christian Yelich.

Though he entered the season with only 10 career homers against left-handed pitching -- as opposed to 64 against right-handers -- Rosario already has three homers in 12 at-bats against southpaws in 2019.

“He gives you confidence when you’re putting his name in there,” Baldelli said. “When there’s a lefty coming into the game, you do feel like there’s a real chance when he goes up to the plate. We know when you bring in certain pitchers, sometimes those pitchers have the advantage when they’re brought into a situation, but we like betting on Rosie.”

After starting the year in an 0-for-14 slump, Rosario has hits in 14 of his last 18 games and is slashing .274/.315/.679 for the season. His current hot stretch recalls his torrid May and June from last season, during which he hit .350/.391/.650 with 15 homers. He said he tailed off after the All-Star break after getting banged up but is pleased to see his work from the offseason immediately pay off.

"I've been a good hitter the last couple of years,” Rosario said. “This offseason, I worked more hard. I wanted to try to stay healthy all season. Last year, after the All-Star break, I had a couple of injuries. I wanted to try to stay healthy and play my game."

Stewart to start vs. Verlander in finale
The Twins are expected to recall Houston native Kohl Stewart from Triple-A Rochester to start against Justin Verlander in Wednesday night’s series finale against the Astros. The official roster move(s) to clear a roster spot for Stewart are expected to be announced on Wednesday morning.

Stewart, a graduate of St. Pius X High School in Houston, allowed eight earned runs in 12 innings across three starts for Rochester in 2019. The 24-year-old right-hander had a 3.68 ERA in eight appearances (four starts) for the Twins last season, with 24 strikeouts and 18 walks in 36 2/3 innings.

Stewart threw five shutout innings at Minute Maid Park on Sept. 4, 2018, when he entered the game in the second inning after the Twins used an opener and scattered three hits while striking out three.