Let’s begin to unpack tonight’s game with a fact: The Minnesota Twins hit a LOT of homers.
Their .500 team slugging percentage right now is just bonkers, and is actually the best in all of baseball. They’re also on pace to hit the most home runs in a season; the 2018 New York Yankees currently hold the title, at 266. The 2019 Minnesota Twins are at 199, and it’s only July 25.
This is also their ninth five-homer game of the season. (Is that good?) Yeah, that’s absolutely nuts.
Including tonight, the Twins have homered in 10 consecutive games, with Nelson Cruz homering in four straight.
Jason Benetti’s ominous warning that the wind at Guaranteed Rate Field was “brisk” before the game even started should have been taken more seriously. Perhaps it’s time to call the travel agency and ask for a refund, because Nelson certainly took the Chicago White Sox on a cruise tonight, and it was nothing like the brochure described.
The Twins capsized the Sox with the long ball, resulting in a 10-3 loss on Thursday night.
Lucas Giolito simply didn’t pack enough stuff for this journey, as Cruz launched a fastball splitting the plate early in the first inning, putting the Twins up, 1-0.
In the second, the Sox offense responded to Cruz’s shot; Yoán Moncada launched an oppo taco on a Berríos first-pitch fastball, sinking juuuust over the fence. We’ve got ourselves a tie game, 1-1.
The third inning brought a torrential offensive downpour; Giolito doled a two-out walk, and then up walks — you guessed it, Nelson Cruz.
Deja vú all around, as Cruz reached for a pitch, connected somehow, and launched it to straightaway center; 3-1, Twins.
Later in the third, Adam Engel got caught in what would have been a rundown after he launched a ball down the third-base line, rounding towards second without reading the ball’s return. In a move that would make A.J. Pierzynski proud, Engel rushed back to first, but not without coming into contact with Jonathan Schoop.
Engel was awarded second; Twins manager Rocco Baldelli argued this bizarre call, which was officially scored as a single and an error on Schoop.
Do I really have to talk about the fifth inning? Schoop singled, but was later cut down on a stellar play by José Abreu, who made an excellent throw to second base on a bunt attempt by Byron Buxton.
However, Max Kepler managed to take the wind out of Giolito’s sails yet again, launching a 399-foot homer, scoring two more runs and putting the Twins up, 5-1.
Up comes Cruz, yet again. Surely he’s given us enough punishment, right?
1st inning: Nelson Cruz HR— MLB (@MLB) July 26, 2019
3rd inning: Nelson Cruz HR
5th inning: Nelson Cruz HR pic.twitter.com/VohY241LSE
Woof. Cruz and the Twins put themselves up with a big crooked number, swelling the lead to 7-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, Yolmer Sánchez, Engel, and Leury García all singled consecutively off Berríos; Leury’s hit scored Yolmer, pushing the White Sox one run closer at 7-2.
When the sixth inning rolled around, Jimmy Cordero came on to mop up what was left from the storm. After a leadoff double by Luis Arraez, Miguel Sanó found a high fastball and catapulted it 367 feet out of the park; their fifth homer of the game put the Twins up, 9-2.
But there’s more: Speedster Buxton slapped a one-out double, and a Jorge Polanco single, made it 10-2, Twins.
In the Sox half, Moncada proved he understood the importance of having fun, starting things off with a single. James McCann then reached on an(other) error by Schoop; Moncada scuttling to third. Both Moncada and McCann tagged on a sac fly by A.J. Reed; and when Eddie Rosario made a very strange throw to the plate instead of his cutoff man, that error pushed Moncada to score.
The Twins got what they wanted out of Berríos; after a taxing series with the Yankees, where the bullpen was used heavily, Berríos needed to eat innings, and that he did. La Makina lived up to his name, going seven innings with six hits, three runs (two earned), a walk and eight Ks, improving to 9-5. The Bomba Squad claims yet another victim in Giolito; his line tonight was the sound of a sad trombone droning: five frames, seven hits, seven earned, two walk and seven strikeouts, dropping him to 11-5.
Tomorrow’s 7:10 p.m. CST game features Michael Pineda (6-5, 4.41 ERA) going up against our very own Dylan Cease (1-2, 6.19 ERA). Long ball or small ball, SSS will put on a brave face and strap on coverage tomorrow, with Ali White. Catch it on TV by tuning into NBC Sports Chicago; on the radio, set your dial to WGN 720.