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Sano shatters eighth-inning tie with two-run HR

@dohyoungpark
May 21, 2019

ANAHEIM -- No Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, C.J. Cron or Jonathan Schoop? No problem -- because Miguel Sanó is back. The Twins had largely been held in check on Monday night with four of their most potent power bats on the bench or the injured list, but the recently activated

ANAHEIM -- No Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, C.J. Cron or Jonathan Schoop? No problem -- because Miguel Sanó is back.

The Twins had largely been held in check on Monday night with four of their most potent power bats on the bench or the injured list, but the recently activated Sano showed off the club's enviable position player depth with a two-run blast to right-center field off reliever Ty Buttrey to shatter an eighth-inning tie and power Minnesota to a 3-1 victory over the Angels.

Box score

"For me and for the team, that's pretty good," Sano said. "It's a great moment at a good time with a tie game in the eighth inning, to come back and hit a homer. He got on base, and I try to put the ball in play all the time, but sometimes I struggle, sometimes not. But I'm still working hard, and that's an opportunity where we can hit the ball."

Sano's second homer of the season following his reinstatement from the 10-day injured list on Wednesday traveled 391 feet and finally provided the decisive blow for a Twins offense that had stranded seven runners through the first seven innings.

"It's just a good swing," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He stayed through the ball well and drove it out that way. He has that kind of power. He hits the ball on the barrel and gets it up in the air. He has the kind of strength where regardless of where you're playing, he can drive the ball out anywhere and it's just a big hit. It's just a game-changing type of at-bat for him and great for us."

Sano now has two homers and two doubles in the five games since his return. The thing is, neither Sano nor Baldelli think that the big third baseman is completely settled in at the plate following his long layoff.

Sano missed all of Spring Training and more than two weeks of the regular season before he relocated to the Twins' Minor League complex in Fort Myers, Fla., to begin his conditioning in earnest, and he only played in two weeks' worth of rehab games in the Minor Leagues prior to his return.

Though he does have the four extra-base hits in five games, Sano has also hit .190/.217/.571 with nine strikeouts and one walk, and he said after Monday's game that he still feels there's plenty of progress to be made.

"I'm not going to say I feel really good when I'm at first struggling, but we'll work hard every day and we'll try to go to the right spot," Sano said.

"It does normally take a while for guys to get into the swing of things," Baldelli said. "Sometimes it's even not just weeks but sometimes months before guys feel really comfortable after missing that amount of time, which makes the good swings that he's putting on the ball even more impressive."

Second time's the charm again for Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi claimed earlier this season that it's tough as a starting pitcher to face a team twice in a row -- but he sure hasn't pitched like it.

After allowing three runs to the Angels in his previous start last Wednesday, Odorizzi entered Monday with a new game plan and relied more heavily on his splitter and curveball to hold Los Angeles to three hits and two walks in five shutout innings on Monday night. He has not been scored upon in four of his last five starts.

"I still used the fastball effectively, but not as frequently as the first time around," Odorizzi said. "Just wanted to give them a different look, and it was the right call. ... I saw that I didn't use my split-finger very much the first game, so I wanted to use it more frequently this game because it was a big pitch tonight."

Odorizzi had also been at his best earlier this year when facing an opponent for the second time in a row. He had allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Astros on April 22 before tossing seven scoreless innings against Houston a week later and besting Justin Verlander in a 1-0 pitchers' duel.

The right-hander didn't yield a hit until the third inning on Monday, but he started to grind in the fourth inning, needing 12 pitches to retire Jonathan Lucroy for the final out. In the fifth, Odorizzi walked David Fletcher and allowed a single to Tommy La Stella before retiring Mike Trout on a flyout to end his night at 90 pitches.

Credit the veteran Odorizzi for recognizing that he had started to labor through those final few outs and having the awareness to hand the game over to his bullpen despite his relatively low pitch count.

"I talked to Rocco after the inning, and he just asked how I was feeling, and I was honest with him [and] said, 'I can probably be done right here,' just because of the way the last four outs seemed like they took about 10 outs," Odorizzi said.

"I knew our bullpen was fresh and I didn't want to lie to him. I wanted to win this game and I gave it everything I had for the five innings. I could have gone out selfishly for an extra couple outs, [but if] a guy gets on base, it's tougher for the reliever, so I'm not afraid to swallow my pride."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.