The team that eventually became the Bomba Squad didn't start out that way.
A week into the 2019 season, and the Twins had hit all of one home run over five games. Sure, they won four of those games, but who wants to score runs on mere singles and doubles?
Of course, the home runs soon started flowing. It started with a three-game series at Philadelphia, where Max Kepler homered in every game and Jorge Polanco hit for the cycle. Then came a game against the Mets in which the Twins went deep six times, the first three coming off defending NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.
Pretty soon, the Twins were crushing 23 home runs in six games against hapless Baltimore, and a record-setting performance was well on its way. The Twins broke the previous record for most homers in a season with a month to play; they became the first team to reach 300 home runs in a season the day after they cliched the AL Central; and, after falling behind the Yankees with two days left, they reclaimed their title with a three-homer performance on the season's final day, giving them 307 on the year.
Obviously, some of those home runs were bigger than others. Looking back on 2019, a Twins fan is probably more likely to remember, say, Miguel Sano's grand slam in Cleveland more than Jorge Polanco's solo shot in a 4-1 loss at Kansas City. So what were the most memorable home runs the Twins hit this year? We make a humble attempt to rank the top 10, knowing full well that opinions, like exit velocity and launch angle, can differ from one person to another.
Ehire Adrianza's solo home run off Houston's Justin Verlander, April 29; Miguel Sano's two-run homer at the Los Angeles Angels, May 20; Mitch Garver's two-run homer vs. Kansas City, June 14; Max Kepler's 13th-inning tying home run vs. Boston, June 18; Miguel Sano's two-run homer vs. the New York Yankees, July 23; Mitch Garver's record-breaking home run No. 268 at Detroit, Aug. 31; Luis Arraez's two-run homer at Detroit, Sept. 25.
10. Nelson Cruz's 400th career home run, vs. Kansas City, Sept. 19
93.7 mph four-seam fastball from LHP Gabe Speier
108.0 mph exit velocity, 28 degree launch angle, 412 feet
Cruz is probably the MVP of the 2019 Twins, even though he doesn't play in the field and participated in only 120 games. He led the team in home runs, was second in RBI and produced a career-best OPS of 1.031. But this is his only appearance on his list; for all those home runs, most of them tended to come earlier in games. His first two career three-homer games came over a 10-day span, but we'll choose this as Cruz's home run on this list because of its milestone properties — the 40th of the season, making him only the third Twins player ever to reach that mark, and the 400th of his career. It also helped give the Twins some breathing room after their 6-0 first-inning lead shrank to 7-6 by the third.
9. Max Kepler's fifth home run in a row off Trevor Bauer, at Cleveland, July 13
78.7 mph knuckle curve from RHP Trevor Bauer
98.4 mph exit velocity, 23 degree launch angle, 396 feet
The Twins went from 1961 to 2015 with only four players to hit three home runs in a game. They have done it eight times since, beginning with Kepler's three-homer game at Cleveland on Aug. 1, 2016. So when he did it again at Cleveland on June 6, it didn't even register as that big of an accomplishment, other than that he hit all three homers off Trevor Bauer, one of the AL's best pitchers in 2018. The next time Kepler saw Bauer, he led off with another home run ... and then he homered again the next inning, making it five consecutive home runs for Kepler off the noted drone enthusiast, who by the end of the month would throw a ball from the mound over the outfield fence in frustration and then get traded across the state.
8. Mitch Garver's two-run homer vs. Washington, Sept. 10
85 mph slider from RHP Anibal Sanchez
104.4 mph exit velocity, 28 degree launch angle, 425 feet
The rest of the homers on this list will mostly trend towards coming late in a close game, and generally late in the season. This one came to start a three-game series with a hot Washington team, and with the Twins sporting a lineup missing not only Byron Buxton but also Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Marwin Gonzalez and even Jake Cave. Jose Berrios bounced back from a dreadful stretch with a nearly perfect outing through seven innings, but he was matched by Anibal Sanchez over the first six. Finally, Sanchez blinked in the seventh, giving up a leadoff double to Eddie Rosario before Garver broke the stalemate with his 30th home run of the season.
7. Mitch Garver's three-run homer vs. Cleveland, Sept. 7
92.7 mph four-seam fastball from RHP Nick Goody
97.2 mph exit velocity, 33 degree launch angle, 352 feet
Where would the 2019 Twins be without Mitch Garver? He clubbed 31 home runs in only 93 games! And he seemed to have a flair for the dramatic. This one came hours after the Twins learned Michael Pineda would be suspended for the rest of the season, and with the Indians in town trying to claw back into the AL Central race and having won in 11 innings the previous night. Garver had already homered in the first inning, and his teammates had tied the score at 2-2 when he stepped up in the seventh inning against Nick Goody. The righthander threw three consecutive fastballs, and Garver powered the third the opposite way for a home run that lifted the team on what had been a difficult day.
6. Jonathan Schoop's two-run homer at Texas, Aug. 16
86.2 mph changeup from LHP Mike Minor
101.4 mph exit velocity, 34 degree launch angle, 386 feet
Jonathan Schoop got off to a strong start to 2019, but his playing time gradually eroded as he slumped while Luis Arraez came up and smacked hits all over the place. He was making only his fifth start of August in this game, put in the lineup against All-Star lefthander Mike Minor. Texas had taken a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Twins reclaimed the lead the next inning when Schoop sent Minor's 2-2 mistake into the left-field seats. Not only did the home run get Schoop going again — he hit four more home runs the rest of the month — but the Twins' 4-3 victory restored their lead to 1½ games against the Indians, who never got within a game of them the rest of the way.
5. Jorge Polanco's two-run homer at Cleveland, Sept. 14 (Game 1)
86.0 mph changeup from RHP Mike Clevinger
96.3 mph exit velocity, 28 degree launch angle, 391 feet
It's almost laughable to look at the final standings and see the Indians finished eight games back, because until the final week of the season they remained a constant thorn in the Twins' side. Going into the final Twins-Indians series of the season, a Cleveland sweep could have brought the AL Central race down to the wire, and the Twins' situation was made all the more complicated when Friday's game was rained out after Jake Odorizzi had already thrown 27 pitches, meaning the Twins would go with bullpen games for both games of a Saturday doubleheader. And yet, the Twins won Game 1 against Cleveland ace Mike Clevinger, with the only runs coming when Polanco — after having a long two-run homer from Friday wiped out by the rain — simply did it again in the fourth inning Saturday. The Twins did nothing off Clevinger the rest of the way, yet their bullpen made it stand up in a 2-0 victory.
4. Eddie Rosario's three-run homer vs. Oakland, July 18
90.0 mph four-seam fastball from RHP Yusmeiro Petit
106.8 mph exit velocity, 26 degree launch angle, 414 feet
Of the Twins' 307 home runs, only two were pinch hits, but they appear as the next two homers on this list. The first homestand after the All-Star break was a tough one, as the Twins faced three strong teams in the Mets, Athletics and Yankees. And it started with a discouraging two-game sweep by the Mets, the second victory a 14-4 rout where New York scored six unearned runs in the eighth inning after Eddie Rosario dropped a fly ball in left. It was little surprise that Rosario didn't start the next night against Oakland. But he'd get his chance in the seventh inning: Oakland led 3-1, but after the Twins put two runners on with one out, the A's pulled starter Mike Fiers for Yusmeiro Petit to face Jake Cave. Rocco Baldelli countered by bringing in Rosario. He swung at the first pitch, as he so often does, and this time, the ball sailed into the seats for a 4-3 lead.
3. Miguel Sano's walkoff two-run homer vs. Atlanta, Aug. 5
89.7 mph cutter from RHP Chris Martin
109.4 mph exit velocity, 26 degree launch angle, 443 feet
We feel bad that we didn't have more Miguel Sano home runs on this list. His two-run, eighth-inning shot off the Yankees' Zach Britton deserved a spot but didn't make it because of what happened afterward. Nor did Sano's eight-inning tiebreaking shot against the Angels in only his fifth game of the season. But there's still room for two other Sano blasts, starting with this one. The Twins were beginning a critical week's worth of games against Atlanta and Cleveland at Target Field, a week that would not go well — they would go 2-5 and the Indians would depart Sunday with a share of the AL Central lead. That all said, how would it have gone had the Twins lost this game? With the Twins using a lefthanded-heavy lineup against Mike Soroka, Sano began this game on the bench. But when Luis Arraez extended the ninth inning with a two-out single off Chris Martin, Rocco Baldelli turned to Sano to pinch hit with the score tied 3-3. Sano reponded with the Twins' only walkoff home run of the season.
2. Miguel Sano's grand slam at Cleveland, Sept. 14 (Game 2)
82.6 mph slider from RHP Nick Goody
104.8 mph exit velocity, 23 degree launch angle, 415 feet
Having lost Game 1 of the doubleheader vs. the Twins, Cleveland desperately needed to win Game 2. And through five innings, the Indians led 5-2. But the Twins would not remain silenced, starting with a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the sixth. In the eighth, the Twins tied the score with an RBI double by Jorge Polanco off Oliver Perez, who then intentionally walked Nelson Cruz and then unintentionally walked Eddie Rosario — Rosario's first unintentional walk in nearly a month. That left the bases loaded for Sano. For the second Saturday in a row, the Indians asked Nick Goody to get them out of a late-inning jam against the Twins, and for the second Saturday in a row, Goody gave up a backbreaking blast, this time with Sano launching his first pitch into the left-field seats. The grand slam was the first of Sano's career, and only the Twins' second of the season, and it essentially decided the AL Central race. And yet, it's not our biggest Twins home run of 2019 ...
1. Marwin Gonzalez's three-run homer at Milwaukee, Aug. 13
95.7 mph four-seam fastball from LHP Josh Hader
100.4 mph exit velocity, 24 degree launch angle, 402 feet
... Because that crown belongs to Marwin Gonzalez, who got off to a miserable April, then spent much of the final month of the season among the Twins' walking wounded. In between, he delivered his share of big hits, all while being asked to play all over the field. But this home run gets the No. 1 spot not only for its context within this game, but also the Twins' season. Recall that two days earlier, the Twins lost in 10 innings to the Indians on a grand slam after having Ehire Adrianza thrown out at home as the winning run in the ninth, leaving the teams tied for first place. The next day, Cleveland beat Boston while the Twins were off, leaving the Twins in second place for the first time since April 18.
So the Twins began a six-game road trip to Milwaukee and Texas needing a pick-me-up having blown an 11.5-game lead. Instead, it looked like more disaster: a 4-1 lead against the Brewers disappeared within four batters in the seventh inning, with Ryne Harper giving up an RBI double to Christian Yelich and a three-run homer to Yasmani Grandal. Trailing by a run, the Twins got off to a promising start in the eighth on a double by Eddie Rosario and a walk by Miguel Sano, but after Luis Arraez and C.J. Cron both struck out, those two were still stuck on base when the Brewers turned to flamethrowing Josh Hader to retire Gonzalez. But Hader was having some issues with the long ball, and sure enough, Gonzalez cranked his first pitch to left-center for a go-ahead, three-run shot. The Twins won 7-5; the Red Sox beat the Indians 7-6 in 10 innings; and Cleveland trailed in the standings the rest of the season.