Minnesota baseball has come alive this season.
Minnesota Twins have dramatically turned things around coming off a 103-loss season, bottom of Major League Baseball. Twins are second in American League Central trailing defending American League Champions, Cleveland Indians, 1.5 games. It all started with a 7-1 season opening victory over the Royals winning the first four and starting the 2017 season out 5-1. Throughout the season Twins have had some memorable moments halfway through. Here’s a list of 10 top moments from the 2017 Twins thus far.
Albert Pujols became the ninth player in MLB history to hit 600 home runs and done so against former Angels pitcher Ervin Santana, June 3, in grand slam fashion. While this highlight was against the Twins, Manager Paul Molitor told his team to embrace witnessing history, he said in a post game interview. However, Molitor wasn’t happy it came at the expense of a grand slam that cost Twins a game losing 7-2.
Before the game, Molitor received an autographed bat from Pujols which he later said he would hang up in his office, according to Fox Sports North.
In one of the wildest games this season for the Twins they battled for 15 innings against Tampa Bay Rays, May 28. Challenges and close tag outs set up an interesting 9 inning battle where the Twins led, 5-3. On a full count with two outs, Evan Longoria’s RBI double brought Rays within one and he later tied the game with a slide to home plate.
The game didn’t get decided until the 15th inning after Twins surrendered two home runs and didn’t answer in the bottom of the 15th, losing 8-6.
Miguel Sano hit a monster home run in Kansas City against the Royals, July 1. It was Sano’s 20th homer of the season and while Sano has had much success against the Royals the distance still surprised Sano when he interviewed with reporters.
“502? No way,” Sano said. “I saw the ball and I don’t believe it. I can hit the ball that way but it was really far.”
While that was far, Sano insists he hit a homer even farther than 502-feet while playing down in Fort Myers, Florida.
Another memorable home run hit by Sano was hit “Catch” homer, May 2. While it’s not the farthest home run he hit, even at 466-feet straight to center field, it’s only the second home run to enter hit the “Catch” concession section of the ballpark. Sano’s dancer afterwards was priceless.
Catching the ball on a bounce and stepping on third was Sano, then he threw to second baseman Brian Dozier who completed the triple play with a throw to first baseman Joe Mauer to complete the Twins first triple play in 11 years against the Angels, June 1.
For the Twins this millennium, New York Yankees has been their worse nightmare. From 2002 to 2010, Twins made six playoff appearances. Four of those last five appearances ended in Divisional Series losses against the Yankees. Yankees swept Twins in 2009, in the last game at the Metrodome, and swept them in 2010 when Target Field first opened. Since that 2010 series, Twins haven’t made the playoff since.
So Mauer scoring the winning run in an eighth inning comeback meant a lot to a team that’s had an ugly history with the Yankees, and Mauer has been around for most of it.
“It always feels good to beat ’em. They had our number in the playoffs a few years ago but it’s a new year,” Mauer told Fox Sports North postgame after Twins won 4-2, July 17.
Bats were alive against Oakland A’s with Twins hitting six home runs out of the ball park, May 2. Contributing to the stadium record was Dozier who hit two, Sano, Mauer, Jason Castro and Byron Buxton.
“Let’s go, Joe! Let’s go, Joe!” chants behind home plate must have made the hometown hero feel right at home as he blasted his first career walk off home run on Cinco de Mayo against Boston Red Sox to win 4-3.
“Just glad to have that opportunity and it went over the fence,” Mauer told Fox Sports North after the game. “I saved it for the right moment, right? Fourteen years I guess…glad to go back to the clubhouse and turn some music on.”
3. Twins record 28-hits, winning 20-7
Twins were on fire against Seattle Mariners piling up 28 hits, 20 runs and five home runs, June 13, at Target Field. Top performer of the night was Rosario, going 5-5, with three home runs and five RBIs. Recording 28 hits was the most in team history breaking their 27-hit record when they were the Washington Senators in 1933, according to Pioneer Press.
In 2017, Twins were represented by three players during MLB All-Star week which was the most since 2014, when Target Field hosted All-Star break. Sano, Santana and Brandon Kintzler were the three All-Stars and while Sano was making his first appearance he also participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby.
Sano went down to the finals but was knocked off by Yankees rising star, Aaron Judge.
“I was excited the first couple swings. First Home Run Derby and a big moment for me and my whole family. And next year if the major league tells me I can do it, I’mma comeback back and do it, yeah,” Sano said during an interview after the Home Run Derby. “[Aaron Judge] he’s a monster guy, a lot of power.
“Next year I’m going to prepare myself, if they call me for Home Run Derby…I’m here because I want to compete with him.”
In the All-Star game, Sano recorded an RBI single in a 2-1 win for American League. Kintzler also pitched a perfect 1-2-3 fifth inning for the squad. Santana surrendered a game tying home run but recorded a strikeout as well force a ground out and pop fly.
1. Twins pay tribute to Prince June 16 and Rod Carew on July 3.
On Prince night the Twins gave away 10,000 “Purple Rain” (album cover) decaled Prince umbrellas to spectators and played Prince music throughout the night. During the seventh inning stretch there was a special ceremony where fans lifted their umbrellas and sung along to the tunes of Prince, and later there was fireworks to wrap up the tribute. Only fitting, before the first pitch there was a light shower over the stadium.
Rod Carew made his return for the first time since his heart and kidney transplant, July 3 at Target Field.
Carew threw out the first pitch to his former teammate and longtime roommate Tony Oliva. Watching both of his former teams go at it, Twins defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 9-5. Twins celebrated with fireworks on the eve of July 3 in front of a record attendance accumulating the biggest crowd this season since opening day with over 35,000 fans.
Twins are 47-45 (26-17 road) sitting in second place in American League Central. Tuesday, Twins will take on the Yankees with their newly acquired 44-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colón on the mound.
By Gino Terrell