Jorge Polanco is stepping up to become the latest power-hitting sensation, right up there with Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier.
“No,” Polanco said with a straight face. “I just think I’m hitting the ball very good.”
The White Sox feel differently after watching Polanco pulverize more of their pitches, then take casual jogs around the bases.
Polanco is on a power spree, and it’s helping the Twins tighten their grip on the second wild-card spot. The shortstop hit two more taters Tuesday night — a solo shot from each side of the plate — as the Twins held off Chicago 6-4 at Target Field to take the opener of a three-game series.
The Twins have a one-game lead on the Angels for the second wild card, after the Angels beat the A’s 8-2 in Anaheim late Tuesday.
Polanco is the fifth Twin to homer from both sides of the plate in a game, joining Roy Smalley (1986), Chili Davis (1992), Ryan Doumit (2012) and Kennys Vargas (2016).
Chicago, of course, could care less if Polanco is doing it lefthanded or righthanded. Their problem is that Polanco continues to sock Sox pitching. Polanco has six homers over his past nine games — all against Chicago. Seven of Polanco’s nine home runs this season — and eight of his 13 career home runs — are against the White Sox.
“[Polanco] is swinging the bat really, really well,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s hit some homers against us, obviously. He’s got some juice from both sides of the plate. Tip your hat to him.”
Polanco struck out against James Shields in the first inning, but got a 3-1 fastball over the heart of the plate in the third inning and belted it into the seats in right. In the seventh, Polanco dug in against Aaron Bummer and hit a pitch out to left.
There appears to be more dangerous intent recently behind Polanco’s swings, and it looks as if he’s trying to get more loft with his swing. But Twins manager Paul Molitor said he believes Polanco’s eye at the plate is allowing him to get better pitches to hit, not because of some mechanical overhaul.
“When he was struggling he was expanding on offspeed [pitches], chasing pitches up in the zone and popping it up. Hitting a lot of fly balls,” Molitor said. “You watch him take [batting practice] every day and he’s focused on trying to minimize the balls that are traveling high in the air.
“He’s trying to drive the ball from both sides of the plate. Some of them are turning into homers right now, which is good for us.”
The homers were the difference in a game in which the Twins scored twice in the first inning against Shields then got Polanco’s homer in the third and an Eduardo Escobar RBI single in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead. The Twins seemed to be in control, as Ervin Santana had given up only one earned run heading into the seventh inning. But Chicago scored twice to get within 5-3.
Polanco’s second homer of the night made it 6-3 in the seventh. Matt Belisle gave up a run in the ninth, but struck out Avisail Garcia to end the game.
The Twins have two more games against Chicago this week. More chances for Polanco to hit more homers then claim he’s not a power hitter.
“I’m just trying to get my pitch,” Polanco said, “and eliminate swinging at bad pitches. It’s going well.”