Home runs sure can cover up for a team’s shortcomings. Like when Twins starter Jake Odorizzi can’t pitch through the sixth inning. Or when six relievers are needed to get the final 11 outs.
A pair of two-run homers, one each by Byron Buxton and Jason Castro, helped the Twins hold off the late-charging Angels 8-7 on Wednesday. Los Angeles railed for three runs in the ninth, the final one coming when Mike Morin plunked Mike Trout with the bases loaded. Morin recovered to get Shohei Ohtani to ground out to end a game that enabled the Twins to win the three-game series and move 4 1/2-games ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central. Odorizzi improved to 6-2, one win shy of his 2018 total. Morin secured his second career save.
The Twins then packed up and left for Seattle, where they will open a seven-game road trip Thursday, relieved.
“You’re going to have to win games ugly and clean,” Odorizzi said. “Whatever they are we’re going to have to win them one way or another to make the postseason. Today it got interesting, and we still won. At the end of the day a win is a win.”
More power in the bullpen could have helped Wednesday and should be something the Twins address before the trade deadline. For now, they will continue to look within for help. After giving up two runs in the ninth to put the game in the percolator, righthander Trevor Hildenberger not only was pulled from the game but was optioned to Class AAA Rochester.
The Twins are likely to call up reliever Austin Adams on Thursday.
Most of the Twins’ talent is in the lineup, as their 76 home runs are the most ever by a Twins team through 42 games, beating out the 1964 squad that hit 70 in that span. And this year’s crew is on pace to hit about 293 home runs, which would shatter the club record of 225 hit in 1963.
Perhaps the long balls are becoming a hit with fans, as an announced crowd of 31,919 — their second-largest crowd of the season — attended the game. That included more than 4,000 who walked up to buy tickets Wednesday.
“Today was just one of those days where we all saw the ball pretty well, we put pretty good swings on it,” Buxton said. “Especially with the heat warming up, the ball carries a little bit better. So those balls, when you square up pretty good, they get out.”
The Twins were up 2-1 when they nearly hit for the cycle in the fifth, getting a two-run homer by Buxton, a triple by Jorge Polanco, an RBI double by Eddie Rosario and then a sacrifice fly by Willians Astudillo as they moved out to a 6-1 lead.
The Angels kept pecking away, getting a two-run homer from Jonathan Lucroy in the sixth to get Los Angeles within 6-3. Odorizzi was pulled two batters later, starting the reliever roulette.
Castro’s two-run shot in the sixth put the Twins up 8-3, a seemingly comfortable lead. But Los Angeles, fueled by an 18-hit attack, scored once in the seventh before the pressure-packed ninth.
“We had some guys certainly put some really nice swings on the ball and drive the ball out of the park,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They have a very — I don’t want to start throwing adjectives around — but they have good at-bats. Their team has quality at-bats. They make life very, very difficult.”