MINEAPOLIS – The long-running struggles of the twins in 2020 with left-handers were among the most confusing events by a team that boasted Mitch Garver, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano in the middle of a team that returned the most from the core his “Bomb Squad” of 19, which left smoldering ruins on the southern paws scattered after him.
Minnesota finally found its mojo against his left hand again on Thursday – and it was a sight to behold.
The southern paw in question was Seattle pitcher Marco Gonzalez, and his twins struck two big blows with a three-way homer from Garver and a solo blast from hot Byron Buxton, who finished with three hits and fell triple shyly from a cycle as Minnesota traveled to victory with 1
“I felt that there were a lot of people in the stands, I will be honest with you, and if we go out there and play a good game for them, it will be even better,” said manager Rocco Baldeli.
Gonzalez was marked for seven tracks won, marking only the second time since the start of the 2020 season, when the Twins accumulated in more than four tracks against a left-hander. The twins had moved from leading MLB .872 OPS against leftists in ’19, to .658 OPS against southern paws in ’20, ranking 27th in MLB.
Even if the wounded Donaldson (right knee) remained out of the lineup, the right bats – old and new – had a big impact on the defeat, much more in line with what Baldeli expects from the far right crooked in his starting lineups against leftists. Kyle Garlick scored two more goals, including a double RBI, while Buxton scored two runs, Garver spun a pair of out-of-base goals, and Andrelton Simmons scored three shots.
Buxton’s hot start more than made up for the temporary loss of Donaldson’s bat. The central tennis player is the first player in the history of the twins with out-of-base goals in each of his first six games of the season. In fact, his first seven hits from 2021 went to extra bases – including four homers and three doubles – before his sixth inning single broke the series.
Fans didn’t look too disappointed when he didn’t triple to complete the cycle, like the chanted “MVP! MVP!” MVP! “It rained on Buxton all afternoon.
“I worked a little harder in the cage to work a little harder on my routine and I trusted the process of what I was working on in the cage to translate it into the field,” Buxton said. “It’s a process of growth, but things are starting to come together.”
Equally significant is the production from Garver, whose regression from the Silver Slugger winner in 2019 to .511 OPS in the ’20s, as he struggled with a hair injury, certainly did not help the twins’ struggles against leftists. He began showing flashes to his old man with a hard hit (over 95 miles per hour) on all four balls he released into play Thursday, including a 106.3 mph homer that traveled about 435 feet to center and 101.3 mph double, in addition to a pair of flies to the warning track.
These are the species of bats that have given Baldeli faith in making Garver his favorite striker against many leftists – and the Twins will continue to place him prominently in these situations.
“[He] he has this ability to go out there, to have good bats, to learn from his previous bats, to learn from the bats he had recently, ”Baldeli said. “Again, a man we will really rely on and need against a leftist, and I think he feels comfortable in that role as well, facing these guys.”
The loss of big right-wing bats like Jonathan Shop and CJ Crown from the 19th team did not help last season – as did the injuries of Harver and Donaldson. Although Donaldson is not currently active, the twins hope they already have enough depth with their right hand to not only survive but thrive when leftists are on the mound – as will happen again on Saturday.
“I expect to be able to lead a group consistently, which makes life difficult for leftists,” Baldeli said. “Forcing these leftists to work to get through the squad, I think is important and I don’t think we have any soft points for them.”