In the afterglow of the Twins’ first victory in four days, in the merriment of the winning clubhouse, Oswaldo Arcia was explaining how he provided Monday night’s ninth-inning, walk-off home run to beat Cleveland 4-3 when Miguel Sano approached with a gift: His Twins Most Valuable Player Award from 2015.
“It’s the MVP,” Sano said as he jokingly tried to hand off the glass trophy to his teammate.
Arcia declined the honor, but Sano’s point is a good one. In a season in which they are only 6-14, where would the Twins be without Arcia?
The power-hitting outfielder has provided the winning hit three times, amazing considering he has played in only 10 games. That’s not the only reason it’s amazing, too: Arcia has a tendency to let the passion of a big moment alter his mechanics.
“He can take some funny swings throughout the course of a game,” manager Paul Molitor said. “He gets very animated out there in the batter’s box. He’s an emotional guy.”
He is, but his favorite emotion is jubilation, especially after suffering a nightmare season in 2015 that nearly ended his Twins career. He bounced back to make the team this spring, and he has been one of the Twins’ few bright spots. Against the Angels on April 16, he smacked a 400-foot homer in the eighth inning, breaking a tie and delivering the Twins their second victory of the season. The next day, he poked a two-out, opposite-field single in the 12th inning, driving home Byron Buxton in walk-off fashion.
And Monday, leading off the ninth inning of a frigid game with a 3-3 tie? Arcia looked … well, he looked terrible, overmatched, for most of his at-bat against Zach McAllister. Until he didn’t.
“I’m standing next to [hitting coach Tom] Brunansky over there, [and] every time he takes one of those out-of-control swings, Bruno is yelling at him. You can see him stepping out of the box trying to regroup,” Molitor said. “He’s learning [with] the short, compact swing, the ball still goes a long way.”
The first pitch, a fastball at 93 miles per hour, Arcia tried to pulverize and just got a piece. The second pitch was way outside. The third pitch, Arcia tried to hit to Paisley Park. Strike two.
Then he regrouped. And heard his coach’s complaints.
“I can hear him,” Arcia said of Brunansky. “I mainly just take that and understand what he’s saying is, I don’t have to take a big swing to hit the ball far. I’m going to hit it far regardless, just because I’m strong.”
Armed with that knowledge, that calm, that Zen, Arcia waited for another fastball from McAllister. He got it.
“The first couple pitches, I was swinging too hard, too big,” Arcia said. “Once I shortened up, then the ball came a little bit middle-inside, and with my short swing, I hit it out.”
Simple enough. The victory itself wasn’t easy, not with the Twins down to a two-man bench and a beleaguered bullpen, not with them getting outhit 12-5. But they scratched together a two-out, three-run rally in the fifth inning, thanks to a bobbled grounder, a video replay, a balk, a walk, a wild pitch, a clutch double by Brian Dozier and a go-ahead RBI single by Sano.
The Indians tied it at 3-3 on Yan Gomes’ eighth-inning homer off Ryan Pressly, setting up Arcia’s latest heroics.
“After yesterday’s very challenging loss,” Molitor said, it meant a lot “to bounce back.”
Thanks to their 20-game MVP.