Mitch Garver batted with two on and two outs in the second inning Sunday. He fell behind 0-2 in the count against Orioles righthander Alex Cobb but battled back to run the count full.
Cobb fired a fastball, and Garver squared it up. He had time to admire the laser … all the way into shortstop Manny Machado’s glove to end the inning.
But Garver was locked in, and the Twins catcher carried that into his next at-bat in the fifth. Batting with a runner on and nobody out, Garver fell behind 0-2 again, worked the count full again and hit a line drive again.
This time, he hit it with a little more loft. Garver hit a two-run homer off Cobb to break a scoreless tie, and the Twins were on their way to a 10-1 victory.
“I had an idea of how he was going to throw me, because I did get my hands extended on the first at-bat,” he said. “I was able to barrel one that Machado made a great play on. I had an idea how he was going to attack me, get a pitch and keep it fair.”
Garver, who is splitting time with Bobby Wilson behind the plate, is batting .542 (13-for-24) since June 21, raising his average 50 points to .268. The Twins like his hitting potential. He also has made strides with his defense.
“I think you’re always learning in-game about just the approach that might work out best for you,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I think it was more reactionary than really looking for that pitch, and that’s when most hitters are at their best.”
Polanco leads off
It took less than a week for Jorge Polanco to slide into the leadoff spot. With Joe Mauer getting a day off, Molitor needed someone at the top of the lineup.
“Looking at Joe and how many games he has played consecutively, and heading into these last eight games [before the All-Star break], I didn’t think it was realistic to play tomorrow,” Molitor said. “I thought today was a good day to back him off. When he’s out, I’ve got to find someone to hit first.”
Rather than returning Brian Dozier to his preferred spot in the order, Molitor went with Polanco, who is batting .286 in seven games since returning from an 80-game PED suspension. But Molitor has long considered Polanco to be near the top of the list of Twins who consistently take good at-bats.
“Polanco is the type of guy who can fill that role more than adequately with his patience and ability to get on base,” Molitor said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s an opportunity to give him a little different look today.”
What of Buxton, Sano?
Center fielder Byron Buxton went 3-for-5 Sunday, getting his average up to .239 at Class AAA Rochester. Third baseman Miguel Sano went 2-for-4 and is hitting .340 with a homer and seven RBI at Class A Fort Myers.
The Twins are keeping tabs on both as the two search for consistency at the plate. Sano has the additional challenge of getting into better shape.
There are no signs the Twins are close to summoning either player back to the majors. Molitor, who keeps in regular contact with both, said the club will remain patient because the Twins want both players to be productive upon their return.
With Buxton, it’s easy to see why he is not back up — until recently, he wasn’t hitting. Sano’s case is different because of the holistic approach the Twins are taking with him.
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey confirmed last week that Sano has lost some weight while in Florida.
“Without getting too redundant, we’re getting very specific reports and assessments on development of some of the things particularly, trying to get him in a better place physically to play,” Molitor said. “You watch his at-bats and watch some of the things he’s been able to do with his swing that seem to be related to the fact that his body is working better.”