It used to be that good pitching covers up for shortcomings in other areas. The Twins operate under a different mantra.
They are on a historic home run-hitting pace, and seem destined to bomba their way through games when their pitching isn’t sharp or when the defense is leaving outs on the field.
Or when both happen in the same game.
That was the case on Saturday against Detroit, the caboose of the AL Central Division train. The Tigers accepted gifts from the Twins in taking a three-run lead before Miguel Sano, Jake Cave and the Twins offense emerged to power their way to a 8-5 victory at Target Field.
Sano and Cave homered for the second consecutive game, helping Kyle Gibson improve to 12-6 despite getting knocked out of the game in the sixth.
An announced sellout crowd of 39,429 turned out for Joe Mauer bobblehead night and watched the Twins maintain their 2½-game lead over Cleveland in the division race.
“Yeah, this offense never quits, you know?” Gibson said. “We just kept putting the pressure on them and kept putting the ball in play and it found some barrels when it really mattered.”
The Twins were down 4-1 in the fifth when Cave led off with a double and scored when Kepler doubled to right-center field. Jorge Polanco beat out in infield hit to put runners on first and third, then Nelson Cruz followed with an infield hit of his own, sending a dribbler down the third base line with the infield playing back. Kepler scored to make it 4-3.
Luis Arraez flew out to center for the second out. But Sano got a first-pitch cut fastball over the middle the plate and obliterated it into the second deck in left field for a three-run home run and 6-4 lead.
It was home run No. 251 on the season for the Twins as they close in on the major league record of 267 hit last season by the Yankees.
“I got ready to hit something,” Sano said. “Fastball, slider, changeup, whatever they would throw me. I tried to find the pitch that I wanted, and he threw me a cookie down the middle.”
Detroit, however, cut the lead to 6-5 on Victor Reyes’ RBI single in the sixth, but Cave connected on a two-run blast to center in the bottom of the inning.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli didn’t mess around in the late innings, going to Taylor Rogers for the final five outs. In Rogers’ first appearance since Sunday, he struck out the side in the ninth to close the deal.
The second half of the game was much better than the first. Arraez’s error in the third kept the Twins from turning an inning-ending double play. It forced Gibson to throw another 16 pitches in the inning, during which Detroit took a 2-1 lead.
Gibson struck out eight batters over 5⅓ innings but allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in all six innings pitched. The Tigers scored two more runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead. Reyes drove in the two runs with a single, with the second run scoring while Reyes was caught in a rundown between first and second. Arraez turned and threw to third to get Dawel Lugo, but Lugo zigged home when Arraez thought he had zagged back to third.
At that point, the Twins looked like they had forgotten how to play baseball. But the offense was there to fill in the blanks.
“Early in the game it was tough,” Baldelli said. “It wasn’t the cleanest game for sure and it is something we have to do better. We have to complete those plays and give our pitches and ourselves a better chance. … We stayed on it on the offensive side of the ball and kept going.”