Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli didn’t have to sweat much while picking up his 200th career win Saturday night as the Twins bashed five home runs in a 9-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Minneapolis.
The two teams will meet again Sunday, and the Royals will look to end the home-run rush.
All five homers, including two by Jorge Polanco, came against Royals starter Brady Singer in the first five innings as Minnesota jumped to a 6-1 lead.
Byron Buxton, Nick Gordon and Max Kepler also hit home runs as Singer became just the second pitcher to allow five homers against the Twins in a game, joining Cleveland’s Gary Bell, who did it in 1962.
“We put some good swings on the ball, got some pitches out over the plate, and really didn’t miss our opportunities,” Baldelli said. “It’s a fun way to win, and it’s kind of an explosive way to win. The dugout really gets going when you do it like this.”
Four of the five home runs came by left-handed batters: the switch-hitting Polanco (twice), Gordon and Kepler.
“(Singer) is tough,” Baldelli said. “He’s a guy who is especially tough on right-handed hitters, so being able to throw some lefties out there and just seeing what they can do, seeing if they can get some good at-bats, seeing if he’ll make some mistakes for us and trying to get him out of his comfort zone. … When we did get balls out over the plate, we hit them, and we hit them hard.”
Singer entered the contest off his best start of the season, blanking the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox on five hits over seven innings while striking out six last Sunday. But he gave up back-to-back homers to Buxton and Polanco in the first inning Saturday on fastballs in the middle of the plate, and then hung three sliders on homers to Gordon, Kepler and Polanco after that. All five homers came on two-strike counts.
“His slider just didn’t have it today,” said Kansas City manager Mike Matheny. “It was one of those days he didn’t have a feel for it. A lot of times it was just spinning and backing up into the middle of the plate.
“This is a team that thrives and has most of their success with the long ball, especially in this ballpark,” Matheny added. “You’ve got to try and figure out how to navigate once you get to the two-strike count. Just didn’t have enough weapons to get it done.”
Kansas City (64-78), playing the final game of a seven-game road trip that began with a four-game split in Baltimore, will start left-hander Kris Bubic (4-6, 5.07 ERA) in Sunday afternoon’s rubber game while Minnesota (63-79) will start 6-foot-9 right-hander Bailey Ober (2-2, 4.00).
Bubic is 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA in five career appearances and four starts against the Twins. He picked up the win on May 28 at Target Field, 8-3, when he allowed one run on four hits over six innings while striking out five.
Ober will make his 18th career start and second against the Royals. His first came in a 2-1 victory by the Twins on June 6 at Kansas City in his second career start when he was pulled after 51 pitches. He gave up one run on five hits over four innings while striking out four.
Kansas City outfielder Andrew Benintendi enters the contest with 13 RBIs on the first six games of the trip, one shy of the Royals record for most on a road trip of seven games or less set by Jeff King in 1997 and equaled by Kendrys Morales in 2016.
–Field Level Media