When the baseball finally descended, it collided with the scoreboard on the face of the upper deck in right field and ricocheted onto the field, so it was easily retrievable. Kyle Gibson called for the ball and inscribed it for the newly shorn slugger who sent it into orbit.
“He wrote, ‘The new hair, the new player,’ ” Miguel Sano said of his newest souvenir, the one that put the Twins over the hump in their 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “ ‘Power come back.’ ”
Maybe it has. Jake Odorizzi shut down the Pirates offense with two runs on just four hits over 5⅔ innings (impressively), the Twins’ bullpen prevented any more runs from scoring (barely), and Trevor Hildenberger earned his second save as the Twins’ new closer (maybe). Jorge Polanco drove in two runs, and Jake Cave’s two-out fourth-inning single delivered the go-ahead run in the Twins’ 15th win in their past 19 games at home.
But the lasting impression many fans will have was Sano’s missile to the upper deck, a sight not seen in Target Field since May 31.
Well, unless they noticed his new hairdo.
“I got in my mind [that] I’m going to cut my hair and see what we can do,” said the no-longer-dreadlocked Sano, who sat in a barber’s chair Tuesday afternoon for the first time since 2015. “It’s a little bit of a struggle here for us, and I try to do something positive. But you know, we just hang in. Hair or no hair, we try to hit the ball and make a play.”
It’s showing up in Sano’s play for sure. Since rejoining the team July 28, after a six-week reset in the minor leagues, Sano has shown definite progress. It’s a great relief for the franchise, and it’s especially fun for the manager of an offense-challenged team.
“He’s been real close to clicking on some balls. My observation is that the swings and misses are a lot less frequent, his chases out of the zone are a lot more rare, and even when he was 0-for-4 the other day, there weren’t any strikeouts, so he’s staying on the ball better,” Paul Molitor said. “And when he gets pitches to handle … he just missed a couple early in the game, but then he got that fastball and drove it out there. The upper deck in right is not easy to do here.”
Well, not for most people. But Sano? He flexed for the cameras after the game and said, “Yeah, I’m a monster. Look at these. I knew when I hit it.”
So did everybody, but the thing that impressed Molitor the most is that Sano wasn’t trying to pull the ball, not with Polanco on second base after a double.
“Miggy knows the game better than you think, and while I didn’t give him a sign to get the runner over there — obviously I just wanted him to hit — I think subconsciously he knew that he could drive a ball out to right,” Molitor said. “Even if it ended up getting caught, he would have the chance to advance the runner.”
Instead, it carried far out of the ballpark, enough to evoke reverse-Sampson comparisons.
“I was thinking, more to the middle. It doesn’t matter which way they go,” Sano said. “You take the opportunity to hit the ball and try to do something good.”
Still, the haircut was bittersweet for Sano, even if the home run wasn’t. He grew the dreadlocks because his grandmother asked him to. She died last December.
“It’s hard for me, because I’ve got to grow it for a long time,” Sano said. “She wanted to see me with long hair.”
She’d probably be happy with a short-haired, long-homered grandson, too.