MINNEAPOLIS -- If there’s any opponent against whom the Twins need to exorcise some demons, it’s the New York Yankees -- and at least at first, the Twins looked to be well on their way to doing that when they made some loud history against their longtime nemeses to begin Thursday’s series finale.
Facing Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in the rubber game of a three-game series, the Twins got the evening started with back-to-back-to-back blasts from Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, marking the first time in Twins franchise history and the seventh time in AL/NL history (since at least 1900) in which a team has opened a game with three straight long balls.
It’s the first time in Yankees history in which one of the club’s starters allowed homers to the first three batters of a game, and also the first time in Cole’s career in which he’s given up three homers in an inning, let alone consecutively.
“That was fun, man,” Correa said. “That was special. Especially against a starter like Gerrit. He's nasty. He's a top starter in the game, one of the highest-paid players in the game. It's not easy to do. That was special."
Still, the Twins eventually lost, 10-7, after the Yankees scored seven unanswered runs from the fifth inning on.
Here’s the full list of teams to open a game with three straight homers since 1900, courtesy of MLB.com's Sarah Langs:
Twins (June 9, 2022)
D-backs (June 10, 2019)
D-backs (July 21, 2017)
Orioles (May 10, 2012)
Brewers (Sept. 9, 2007)
Braves (May 28, 2003)
Padres (April 13, 1987)
The Twins have flipped Buxton and Arraez atop their lineup to hit Arraez leadoff against right-handed starters more often in recent games, and that paid off against Cole on Thursday. Arraez began the game by crushing a 2-2 changeup an estimated 396 feet into right field for his second homer of the season and the first leadoff blast of his career.
Buxton followed by yanking a first-pitch slider an estimated 422 feet to the third deck in left field, continuing to bust out of his extended slump in May. Correa followed by lacing a cutter that came back to earth an estimated 413 feet away in left-center for his first blast since coming off the COVID injured list on Wednesday, a return which finally made the top of this lineup whole again.
The Twins continued their rally off Cole in the second, when Buxton crushed his second homer of the game, a three-run blast that marked his 15th of the season and his fourth homer in six games in June. That blast, too, carried some history, as it marked the second game this year in which Buxton went deep in both the first and second innings. That made the center fielder the second player in franchise history to do so multiple times in a season, joining Harmon Killebrew (1969).
“He throws a lot of strikes and a lot of pitches, so it’s just one of those where I went up there and eliminated a couple pitches before I got there and then just, I see this pitch, go,” Buxton said. “I saw spin pretty good today and put some pretty good swings on it.”
Such is the potential of the Twins’ lineup at full strength, now that it’s finally healthy, anchored by its stars and productive following Correa’s return. The Twins had already handed both Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes season highs in runs allowed in the first two games of the series, and Buxton’s second homer set a new season high in runs allowed for Cole, too -- in addition to his place on the wrong side of history one frame earlier.
“The stuff was just over the middle of the plate, pitch after pitch,” Cole said. “It just seemed like -- you know, credit to them, they got their ‘A’ swing on pitches that they should hit, and obviously, they’re super talented and they have really good hitters. But boy, that was tough. Just really poor execution and just not great stuff and never really found a way to try to make it any better.”