A handful of extras from an eventful night at Target Field:
Miguel Sano had had a terrible week. He went 0-for-9 against the Indians and struck out six times, and he had driven in only four runs all month. But Paul Molitor noticed something Thursday night that gave him hope: Sano drew two walks.
“He’s been working really hard, just trying to stay on the ball and recognize pitches a little bit better,” the Twins’ manager said. “When he’s getting walks, I know he’s getting close.”
Sano walked again in the first inning Friday, and then his night got really interesting. In the fifth inning, Sano inside-outed a pitch to right field for a single, and though he was quickly thrown out on a baserunning error — he ran through coach Gene Glynn’s stop sign on Eddie Rosario’s double and stopped halfway to the plate — it was another good sign.
Byron Buxton, in fact, said he predicted to Sano that he would break out of his slump with a two-homer game Friday.
Then came the seventh inning, and reliever David Hernandez’s first pitch: A slider that Sano drove to the second deck in deep left-center, 452 feet away. An inning later, facing Silvino Bracho, Sano outdid himself, cracking a pitch to the third deck, directly above the bullpens, estimated at 474 feet.
“Miggy’s homers,” Molitor understated, “were extremely loud.”
Sano wasn’t the only home run hitter, of course. Max Kepler connected on his sixth in the past eight days, and Eduardo Escobar hit his 11th of the season, just one shy of his career high. Brian Dozier connected on a long down-the-line shot into the upper deck that tied him with Michael Cuddyer, who was in the stadium watching the game, for 10th place on the Twins’ career list with 141. And Byron Buxton had the night’s most memorable homer, an inside-the-park blow that took him only 13.85 seconds to complete.
“Just the fact that [Buxton] is contributing the way he is offensively, it’s been a big lift for us.,” Molitor said. “That energizes everybody in the ballpark, including in our dugout.”
Trevor Hildenberger arrived on the mound with nobody out in the seventh inning, runners on first and second base, and the heart of Arizona’s lineup coming to the plate. His assignment: Protect the Twins’ 4-3 lead.
“Yeah, it was intense,” the sidearm reliever said. “It was like the Justin Upton situation Sunday,” when he earned his first career save.
Hildenberger came through again, and he needed only two pitches to do it. A.J. Pollock was at the plate, and the Twins weren’t certain what he would do.
“I didn’t know if he was going to bunt there, so we put on the bunt play and he took the first pitch,” Hildenberger said. “So we thought, ‘I don’t think he’s going to bunt.’ And I went with the sinker, trying to get a ground ball.”
He did, a one-hopper right back to the mound.
“I take pride in fielding my position,” the rookie said. “I don’t remember exactly where it was. All I remember was catching the ball, turning and throwing.”
He turned the pitch into a double play, and Molitor removed him in favor of lefthander Taylor Rogers, who retired Jake Lamb on a popup.
— Eddie Rosario smacked two doubles and a single, extending his hitting streak to eight games, but was hardly mentioned among all the other offense. The left fielder is batting .450 (18-for-40) over his last 10 games.
— Byron Buxton’s 13.85-second trip around the bases is the fastest inside-the-park home run of the three-year StatCast era; there have been 30 such homers since the start of 2015, when the measuring system was installed, including one by Brian Dozier in April. So whose record did Buxton break? His own, of course: Buxton was timed at 14.05 seconds during his inside-the-park home run in Chicago last October, in the 2016 season’s final game. By coincidence, Miguel Sano hit a tape-measure home run in that game, too.