Gordon's slam prompts on-field curtain call

Twins second baseman receives special recognition, logs career-high 6 RBIs

August 31st, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Gordon does customized handshakes with his teammates. He’s Byron Buxton’s biggest hype man. He’s the clubhouse connoisseur of the basketball shooting game “HORSE.” 

Gordon’s done anything and everything the Twins have asked of him to keep his foothold in the big leagues, from learning the outfield to pitching in mop-up situations. And after all he has been through to finally have a season and a moment in the Majors like this, he deserved his recognition -- so his teammates let him have it.

Minutes after Gordon crushed his first career grand slam, he donned his cap and infielder’s glove, and he jogged out towards second base. His teammates stayed in the dugout as the Target Field public address announcer recognized Gordon on the videoboard, allowing him to enjoy a standing ovation, an acknowledgment of the career-high six RBIs that fueled the Twins’ 10-5 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh man, where are the guys?’” Gordon said. “Had to make sure it was three outs. Then I looked back and -- that was awesome. That was definitely an amazing feeling. I can’t really even put it into words.”

Gordon’s opposite-field, two-run double off Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford in the first inning and his grand slam to the second deck in right field in the fifth fueled a season-high RBI total by any Twins player and only the second six-RBI game by a middle infielder in Twins history, joining Cristian Guzmán’s effort against the Tigers on June 24, 2001. Minnesota extended its winning streak to five games, the club’s longest since winning six in a row in May.

The Twins had actually pinch-hit for a disappointed Gordon with the bases loaded on Monday, opting to insert Kyle Garlick against a left-hander. This time, Gordon got his chance against righty reliever Ryan Brasier after the Twins loaded the bases on a missed catch by Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo, followed by a walk and hit batter.

On an 0-2 count, Brasier’s fastball missed on the inner half, and Gordon turned on it with the swing that has quietly put him in the Majors’ top 20 percent in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate this season. He raised his right arm in triumph as he began his home run trot, clapping as he touched home plate.

“He’ll never forget that,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “The swing itself, it was magnificent. He squared that ball up with everything, and he hit it just the way he dreams about hitting them. That’s how it’s supposed to look.”

When it came time to play defense, Gordon was the first one onto the field -- and behind him, Carlos Correa and Jake Cave sprang into motion, stopping others from joining him.

“He was out there by himself for a second, and I was like, 'Hey, nobody go! Nobody go!'” Cave said. “And nobody went. So they had to give a little curtain call.”

Beloved in the clubhouse and crucial to this team with his ability to learn the outfield last season and become a mainstay out there in 2022, Gordon was a first-round Draft pick in 2014, but he struggled with gastritis throughout his Minor League career, preventing him from holding his weight. Then he was hurt when the Twins finally needed a middle infielder in ‘19 -- creating the opportunity that went to Luis Arraez.

In ‘20, when Gordon was poised to take that leap to the Majors, he was sidelined for nearly the whole season with COVID-19, which further sapped his strength and at one point dropped him to 153 pounds.

Last year, all Gordon wanted was a full, healthy season -- and he exceeded that, learning how to play the outfield on the fly out of necessity. This season, he’s been instrumental in the Twins’ ability to weather injuries to outfielders Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Byron Buxton, with his bat taking a huge leap forward now that he’s at 180 pounds. Gordon’s body finally allows him to eat what he wants and maintain his strength.

This is what it looks like, and the Twins couldn’t be more thrilled for him.

“I couldn’t be more impressed with Nick and what he’s been doing,” Baldelli said. “He’s worked through some things, dealt with things. Never hung his head, not one day. Just continually worked about as hard as any guy I’ve ever had. 

“Good things come to guys who have heads on their shoulders like Nick’s.”