The 5 best games by hitters in Twins history
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here's the challenge in picking out the greatest offensive performances in a club's history: With the arrival of the home run revolution in the last decade, it's become far more common for players to rack up home runs (and, thus, total bases) in a particularly hot game.
Fortunately, some of those titanic efforts still stand out above the rest.
These hitting shows all come with gaudy total base numbers, but they still cover a wide array of circumstances, from home run records to an endless chain of base hits falling in to game-winning hits that still endure in fans' memories to this day. Let's take a deeper look at those five best single-game hitting performances in Twins history.
1) Kirby Puckett: Aug. 30, 1987 at Brewers
Normally, the act of going 6-for-6 -- as Puckett did on that Sunday afternoon at Milwaukee County Stadium -- would be impressive enough, but the Hall of Fame center fielder’s feat is best appreciated in context. In the previous night’s game, Puckett had gone 4-for-5, meaning that he tallied 10 hits in 11 at-bats (including four homers) in the span of less than 24 hours. What’s more, he accomplished all of this on the road, where the 1987 Twins were notoriously awful. (Despite winning the World Series that season, the team went an unfathomable 29-52 away from the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.)
Even in the absence of all that context, though, Puckett’s six-hit performance was plenty memorable. It remains the only six-hit game in team history, and his 14 total bases from the performance also hold up as a club record. Puckett started his afternoon with a first-inning RBI single off Brewers lefty Juan Nieves and added a solo homer in the third. He then singled to lead off the fifth and doubled to begin the sixth, sealing his second straight four-hit game -- but he still wasn’t done. The eighth inning saw a glancing double off the right-field wall as the Twins mounted a go-ahead rally, and he got one more crack at things in the ninth, when he crushed a ball over the right-field fence for his sixth hit -- and second homer -- of the game.
2) Tim Teufel: Sept. 16, 1983 vs. Blue Jays
How's this for a big impression? Teufel was a 25-year-old rookie playing in his 10th career big league game as a September callup in '83 when he produced one of 15 five-hit games in Twins history, and the only one of those games with multiple homers and a triple. Better yet, he set a Twins record with five runs after touching home following each of his hits during his 5-for-5 performance. His 13 total bases fell one shy of Puckett's record.
Teufel cracked a first-pitch homer off Toronto starter Jim Gott for his first big league blast, singled in Tom Brunansky in the next frame before scoring on an RBI groundout, tripled in the fourth and scored on a sacrifice fly, singled in the sixth and homered to lead off the eighth inning to cap the five-hit effort. In a fun bit of symmetry, the only other five-hit game of his career came with the Padres in '93, his final season as a Major Leaguer.
3) Jason Kubel: April 17, 2009 vs. Angels
Kubel didn't homer multiple times or come close to the total bases record that day at the Metrodome, but chances are, this performance was far more memorable to most Twins fans than many of those three-homer, 13-total-base games stacked at the top of the leaderboard. He had four hits, five RBIs and scored two runs -- and did it in style.
His RBI double in the first inning gave Minnesota an early lead, and he followed with a single in the third. Kubel's sixth-inning triple into the right-field corner was one of two he hit that season (and 19 in his career), but the most memorable clout came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, when he extended his arms on a hanging breaking ball and crushed it over the baggie in right field, capping his cycle with a go-ahead grand slam that completed a seven-run inning. Kubel's performance gave him one of 11 cycles in Twins history.
4) Max Kepler: June 6, 2019 at Cleveland
Kepler's ownage of Trevor Bauer in 2019 was so unprecedented that the outspoken pitcher recorded a 35-minute YouTube video in April with the sole purpose of breaking down Kepler's at-bats from June 6 and July 13, 2019. That's when the Twins' right fielder matched the longest streak of consecutive homers against a pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961) by going deep five straight times off Bauer, starting with a three-homer, four-hit game on June 6.
"It's unfathomable that it is happening in front of our eyes," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after Kepler's fifth straight homer. "I was going to say that I don't think any of us had seen anything like it. Come to find out, nobody has seen anything like it."
The history-making blasts came on July 13, but Kepler's better offensive game was on June 6, when he yanked the second pitch of the contest into right field for his first homer, crushed a two-run shot in the third inning, walked in the fifth, homered again in the seventh and cracked an infield single in the ninth. His 13 total bases that day matched the second-most in Twins history.
5) Nelson Cruz: July 26, 2020 at White Sox
Even at the ripe old age of 40, Cruz still had plenty left in the tank -- more than enough to match club records with four extra-base hits and seven RBIs on a sunny July afternoon at an empty Guaranteed Rate Field. The game itself wasn't very exciting, and Cruz had almost everything to do with that thanks to a first-inning double, second-inning three-run double, fourth-inning solo homer, and a three-run homer in the eighth that made him the fourth-oldest player in MLB history with seven RBIs in a game.
Only Stan Musial, Jason Giambi and Reggie Jackson drove in seven at a more advanced age, and Rickey Henderson was the only older player to knock four extra-base hits in a game since the American League was established in 1901.
"For a lot of people, it's kind of a career day, the kind of day you'd probably never forget," Baldelli said after the game. "Maybe Nelson remembers all of them, but I don't know if that's possible. He has a lot of games where he's just extraordinarily impressive."