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Boquetón, Caveman lead Bomba Squad again

@dohyoungpark
August 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Players’ Weekend offers the chance for the athletes to show off their personalities. “Caveman” and “Boquetón” have also taken the opportunity to flex their muscles. After Jake Cave and Miguel Sanó each went deep twice in the Twins’ loss to the Tigers on Friday, their power again proved

MINNEAPOLIS -- Players’ Weekend offers the chance for the athletes to show off their personalities. “Caveman” and “Boquetón” have also taken the opportunity to flex their muscles.

After Jake Cave and Miguel Sanó each went deep twice in the Twins’ loss to the Tigers on Friday, their power again proved game-changing on Saturday night, when Sano clubbed a go-ahead, three-run shot in the fifth inning before Cave padded the lead with a two-run blast one inning later to push the Twins to a big, 8-5, win at Target Field.

Box score

The shots were game-changing in the sense that they flipped the scoreboard, but they also injected some life into a sellout crowd and turned the momentum quickly after starter Kyle Gibson saw several ground balls squirt through the infield for hits, and the defense committed several costly miscues in allowing four runs to the Tigers through four frames.

“Early in the game, it was tough,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It wasn't the cleanest game for sure, and it is something we have to do better. We have to complete those plays and give our pitchers -- and ourselves -- a better chance. The fact that we stayed on it on the offensive side of the ball and kept going. We had several guys come up with some big swings.”

Take a look at the Statcast numbers, and it should come as no surprise that those big swings came from Sano and Cave, given the way those two have been swinging the bat since the All-Star break.

Cave entered Saturday as MLB’s leader in hard-hit rate -- percentage of balls hit 95+ mph -- in the second half among players with at least 30 batted balls, with Sano in second place.

1) Jake Cave (62.5%)
2) Miguel Sano (58.8%)
3) Aaron Judge (57.7%)
4) Jorge Soler (56.5%)
5) Josh Donaldson (56.4%)
6) Nelson Cruz (56.4%)

Look at the average exit velocity leaderboard for the second half, too, and you’ll again see Cave and Sano among a whole bunch of Twins.

1) Aaron Judge (96.2 mph)
2) Nelson Cruz (95.8 mph)
3) Jorge Soler (95.0 mph)
4) Miguel Sano (95.0 mph)
5) Jake Cave (94.5 mph)
6) Josh Donaldson (94.0 mph)
7) C.J. Cron (93.8 mph)

Though the Twins’ offense was held to just a Max Kepler solo shot through four innings by Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, the Bomba Squad finally broke through for five runs in the fifth inning to claim the lead. Cave and Kepler started the rally with a pair of doubles before Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz followed with singles to trim the Tigers’ lead to 4-3.

It took one pitch -- a cutter left over the heart of the plate -- for Sano to claim the lead by smashing the offering a Statcast-estimated 405 feet into the second deck to bring home three runs.

"I got ready to hit something. Fastball, slider, changeup; whatever they would throw me,” Sano said. "I don't like to swing first pitch, but sometimes, we need to do it. I saw that pitch right down the middle, and I made a really good swing."

The blast was Sano’s 13th homer since the All-Star break, moving him into a tie for fourth-most homers in the second half in the American League, trailing only teammates Cruz and Kepler and -- of course -- Mike Trout.

“His pitch recognition has been good,” Baldelli said. “But when you do not go up there and give away a strike just for the sake of seeing one, I think you're in a lot better shape, especially when you're confident in your ability to do it. He's pretty confident in his ability to go up there and find a good pitch and put a good swing on it early in the at-bat.”

Cave, meanwhile, has seen more consistent playing time due to injuries to Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario, and the 26-year-old outfielder continued to take full advantage of the opportunity by going 2-for-3 with a homer, a double and a walk on Saturday night to raise his August hitting line to .452/.511/.786.

Cave’s third homer in two games came in the sixth inning when he stepped to the plate following a leadoff single by Mitch Garver and turned on an inside fastball, sending the 3-1 offering an estimated 422 feet out of the park to straightaway center field. That shot capped a streak of seven consecutive plate appearances in which Cave reached base after he did so four times in Friday’s game.

“We talk about being a little bit long on infielders and a little bit short on outfielders,” Baldelli said. “It's just the way our roster is. Having a guy that can step in that has experience in the outfield that can play all the positions and go up and have the at-bats he's having, it's a huge pick-me-up. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now, and he brings a lot of energy to the table.”

Sano and Cave got off to slow starts this season -- for Cave, largely due to irregular playing time; and for Sano, because of his late start due to injury and his subsequent change in swing mechanics that he implemented during the year.

But their turnarounds have been a significant part of why the lineup has been able to weather injuries to Buxton, Rosario, Cruz, Willians Astudillo and several others who have missed time throughout the year.

"I come every day early to the ballpark,” Sano said. “I don't sit around the table on my phone. I go in and work. That's where that work gets me. And God."

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