HOUSTON – The Twins now own the fewest losses and the second-best record in the major leagues, and that wasn’t even the craziest fact to emerge from their 9-5 victory over the Astros on Monday.
Jason Castro hit a home run for the first time in a year. Byron Buxton was thrown out trying to steal a base for the first time in two years. Nelson Cruz beat out two infield hits for the first time in three years. And the Twins’ runaway offense just kept percolating, scoring the most runs they’ve managed in Minute Maid Park in six years.
It all added up to a satisfying streak-breaker in Houston, where the Twins had lost four consecutive games and eight of their last 10. And it was a nice streak-extender, too, since the Twins have won four games in a row, all on the road.
“They got the job done against one of the best teams in baseball and one of the best lineups you’re going to find,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We got some really good [at-bats] from a lot of different guys throughout the lineup. It was a very nice night.”
Especially for Jorge Polanco, who singled twice, doubled and homered, driving in four runs, all of them with two outs. “It makes me feel good,” said the Twins’ shortstop, whose .392 batting average is second-highest in the American League. “Sometimes with two outs, you miss those opportunities. I’m grateful I was able to come through today.”
After pounding the Orioles for 27 runs in three games over the weekend, the Twins arrived at a ballpark where they have averaged fewer than three runs per game over the past couple of years. But facing veteran righthander Brad Peacock, Minnesota’s fortunes changed quickly. Cruz, Eddie Rosario and Cron rifled hits in the first inning to stake Jake Odorizzi to a 2-0 lead. An inning later, Castro, who missed most of last season for knee surgery, crushed a Peacock fastball into the Astros’ bullpen, his first home run since the second game of the 2018 season.
The Twins, who entered the game third in the AL in runs per game (5.6) and second in OPS (.850), weren’t done. Once Peacock was relieved by Josh James in the sixth inning, they put together a four-run rally, their biggest inning here since 2013, and all runs scoring after two outs. Jonathan Schoop smacked a one-out double, Castro walked, and after Buxton flew out, Max Kepler drove a single to right, scoring Schoop and allowing Kepler to take second base when outfielder Josh Reddick tried to catch Castro at third base.
Polanco followed with a single to right that skipped past Reddick for a two-base error, bringing home two more runs and allowing Polanco to reach third. And when Cruz grounded to deep short, Carlos Correa’s throw to first short-hopped first baseman Tyler White, giving Cruz an RBI hit.
The Twins’ nine runs are the most they have scored in a game in Houston since Sept. 3, 2013.
Of course, the Astros have an offense comparable to Minnesota’s, so Odorizzi’s night wasn’t always smooth. He allowed eight hits over 5⅔ innings, and was bailed out by his defense in one memorable sequence.
With two outs and Reddick standing on first base, White crushed an Odorizzi fastball off the wall in deep left-center. Eddie Rosario raced over and retrieved the ricochet, quickly throwing it to Polanco in shallow left field. Polanco’s relay home arrived in plenty of time for Castro to tag Reddick out.
“He’s showing us he can be not only one of the best left fielders but outfielders in the game — that’s what kind of athlete he is,” Baldelli said. “He’s taking a lot of pride in it, and you can see it in the energy he’s displaying out there in the field. It’s been pretty awesome.”