The 16-7 victory over the Angels on Thursday continued the Twins’ incredible start to the season in a big way.
They hit eight home runs, the second time they have done that this season. It has only been accomplished 25 other times in Major League Baseball since 1908. The Twins joined the 2005 Rangers as the only teams to do it twice in one year.
After completing their West Coast road trip 6-1, the Twins are now 17 games above .500 and come home to face the White Sox and Brewers over Memorial Day weekend in what should be a great turnout for a club that has struggled to draw so far this season.
On Thursday, the offense got jump-started from one of their key offseason acquisitions, as second baseman Jonathan Schoop hit a three-run homer in the second inning.
Schoop added a solo homer in the seventh inning, giving him four multihomer games this season.
When Rocco Baldelli was hired as manager, he said one of the players he was most excited about was Schoop, who signed a one-year contract after he struggled in 2018 with Baltimore and Milwaukee.
Schoop hit only .233 with 21 homers and 61 RBI last year, and the Twins were able to sign him to a one-year, $7.5 million contract. The Twins were confident that Schoop could rebound.
And he has. Schoop is playing like the All-Star he was in 2017 with the Orioles. He’s hitting .270 with a .312 on-base percentage and a .528 slugging percentage, which would be the highest mark of his career.
He has 10 home runs, 12 doubles, 29 RBI and 25 runs scored in 44 games, and he has been a big part of the Twins dynamic infield.
Before the Twins left on their road trip, Schoop said that even though he had a rough year in 2018, he believes that helped him get to where he is now.
“My first year with the Baltimore Orioles [in 2013] I learned a lot, I learned baseball is a game of adjustments,” he said. “In 2017 [when he hit .293 with 32 home runs and made the All-Star team] I had my best year, and in 2017 I learned.
“Last year was not so good, but I learned from it. I learned from last year and that’s why I’m better this year. I learned from my mistakes and I learned from what I did wrong last year and what I have to do to get better. This year so far is going good, and I’m trying to maintain it and help my team.”
Schoop comes from the Caribbean island of Curacao, which is just north of Venezuela and in terms of area is a little bigger than St. Paul and Minneapolis combined.
There have been 18 major league players from that island, including five All-Stars: Schoop, Andruw Jones, Kenley Jansen, Ozzie Albies and Jair Jurrjens.
“It’s a really small island, really, really small. But it’s good, everybody speaks English, they speak Spanish, French, everything, you won’t feel uncomfortable down there because if you want to go local, you can go local,” Schoop said. “But if you want to feel touristy you go touristy, too. You won’t ever feel uncomfortable. It’s a nice island, nice beaches, nice people, everything.”
Schoop, who signed with the Orioles when he was 19 years old, said that when he was growing up, playing baseball was a passion but the fields were not in great shape.
“Now it is getting better, but in my time we didn’t have nice fields,” he said. “We played in a field with rocks — that is why almost all of the Curacao guys, they have good hands, because you know you have to be prepared. Any time the ball can jump on you, because there’s a lot of rocks.
“Then when we come here, it’s a little bit easier because you play on grass and stuff. We never played on grass in Curacao. But now it is getting better. We have one field with grass. Before it’s all dirt and rock in it, so you have to prepare yourself for a last-moment hop, the ball might jump on you, you know, and we just like to play baseball. That is what we do. We go to school and then we play baseball until 10 o’clock and go home and sleep, go to school, play baseball, that is all we do.”
Big second baseman
At 6-1 and 225 pounds, Schoop is one of the bigger second basemen in the game. One thing he is proud of is proving that a second baseman can be a power hitter and still play great defense.
Of second basemen with at least 100 fielding chances this season, Schoop ranks sixth in the AL in fielding percentage (.985) with two errors and 17 double plays turned.
“I was a shortstop, I started at shortstop and then played two years at shortstop and then [the Orioles] signed [Manny] Machado and they moved me to third base for two weeks and then I moved back to shortstop,” he recalled. “Then Machado came back and I played second base.
“They used to say second base is for little guys. I want to show everybody. Shortstop was for little guys, too, but then they changed it with [Derek] Jeter, Alex [Rodriguez], they all changed it. I don’t want to say that I’m going to change it, but I want to make a difference.”
And while Schoop is on a one-year deal with the Twins, so far he has really taken to the organization.
“I feel really comfortable, I feel really good. … They make me feel like I belong here,” he said. “There were a couple of teams that talked to me, but I feel good here. There’s a lot of talent. The team, now that we have put it together, there is good talent. We talked before the year if we can put it together and have a good year, we are going to be one of the best teams in the big leagues, and so far it’s going good. We are ready to maintain it.”
• Pro Football Focus noted that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was the second-best red zone QB in the NFL last season behind only the Saints’ Drew Brees. Cousins had career highs in completion percentage (66.7) and passer rating (114.7) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line last season.
• NFL.com ran a list of the top 20 players to be traded in league history, and three Vikings made the cut. Fran Tarkenton’s trade to the Giants in 1967 was No. 10, Randy Moss being traded to the Raiders in 2005 was No. 11 and Paul Krause being traded to the Vikings from Washington in 1968 was No. 15.
• Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is getting a lot of notice as a potential breakout star in 2019. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco wrote: “Cook did average 4.6 yards per rush [in 2018], which shows it wasn’t a bad season, but just not the productive one that was expected. Now another year removed from injury, with an offensive line that should be improved, I expect a big season from Cook.”