CHICAGO – Nelson Cruz blasted a home run to right-center field in the fifth inning Thursday night that traveled 430 feet. That’s quite a poke, but it wasn’t as far as his other ones.
Yes, other ones. Plural.
Cruz also cannoned a 473-foot shot in the first inning and a 433-foot rainmaker in the third, making it the 11th time in Twins history a player has hit three homers in a game and the seventh since 2016. All three home runs came off All-Star righthander Lucas Giolito as the Twins rolled to a 10-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cruz’s 385 home runs rank fourth among active major leaguers. And he has hit the most home runs over the past five seasons. He’s hit six home runs over his past four games — enabling him to pass Barry Bonds as the oldest player with that many homers in a four-game stretch.
The 39-year-old remains a force, hitting three homers in a game for the first time in his 15-year career.
“I think it is a lot of work and make sure I do my weights,” Cruz said. “Make sure I sleep well, rest. Do my tea, stuff like that. I think for anybody if you can have experience in your job, you can do a lot of things when your body feels good and the experience helps.”
The Twins maintained their two-game lead in the American League Central as Cleveland defeated Kansas City 5-4 in 14 innings.
Cruz had two chances at the Twins’ first four-homer game, but in the sixth inning he fell behind 0-2 to righthanded reliever Jimmy Cordero before striking out swinging, and in the ninth he flied out to right against lefthander Josh Osich. Both times, he said didn’t feel anxious and just looked for a pitch to put “good wood” on.
“I was myself I guess,” said Cruz, who has the ball from his third home run and will keep the bat, batting gloves and jersey as well. “It’s the way it is. It’s not easy. To hit three is a blessing.”
Max Kepler and Miguel Sano each added two-run homers as the Twins hit five home runs for the ninth time this season, setting a major league record. They tied the 1977 Red Sox with their eighth such game Monday night against the Yankees.
The victory also got the Twins’ seven-game road trip off to the right start, as they improved to 5-2 against Chicago on the season.
The only blemish for the Twins on the night was in the field, where the team committed four errors, including three in the span of five minutes in the sixth inning. It led to some extra pitches for Jose Berrios, but the All-Star dealt with it with aplomb, holding Chicago to three runs, two earned, over seven innings on six hits and one walk.
Given the pitching staff’s recent struggles, the outing was much-needed. Just-recalled Sean Poppen thew two scoreless innings to finish the game, and the Twins maintained their two-game lead over Cleveland, which needed 14 innings to win at Kansas City 5-4.
Berrios (9-5) earned his first victory since June 6, which coincidentally was the day Max Kepler hit three home runs off Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer.
It’s only the second time since June 28 the Twins have had one of their starters pitch go at least seven innings. Like the rest of his teammates, Berrios was on Cruz control, watching his teammate smash home runs.
“It was great to watch that,” Berrios said, “experience it in the same dugout with him. It’s great to see him doing that at this stage of his career.”
Giolito had given up only 10 home runs in his previous 19 starts before Thursday. Three of those were hit by the Cubs on June 19. That’s right, in one game Cruz hit more home runs off Giolito than 18 other teams.
Sano’s home run in the sixth gave the Twins a major-league leading 199 on the season, already the fifth most in club history.
The only thing that didn’t go right for Cruz was that he was unable to take his customary pregame nap.
“Was dying for a nap today,” he said.
But you hit three homers with no nap.
“No,” he said. “No, I need my naps.”