Chris Gimenez knows his role.
“To be the best mentor to the younger guys,” said the Twins backup catcher — and occasional pitcher, “and [best] clubhouse goofball I can possibly be.”
Gimenez covered both traits in one statement following the Twins’ 6-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday at Target Field, a victory made possible by his first multi-homer game in 319 career games.
The win allowed the Twins to salvage a split of the four-game series and set them up for an important four-game weekend series at home — including a Saturday doubleheader — against the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians.
The Twins lead Cleveland by two games in the AL Central, and Gimenez showed the young players what their approach should be while doing something players rarely do — he provided billboard material for the Indians, calling them the bullies of the division.
“It’s time to punch them in the mouth,” said Gimenez, a backup with Cleveland last season on its storied run to the World Series, “and this is a good opportunity to do that — not that the season is over if it doesn’t happen that way. Any time you have a chance to play the guys right behind ya, and potentially create some separation, it is a good thing.”
The Indians decked the Dodgers 12-5 on Thursday for only their fourth victory in their past 10 games. They swept the Twins in a three-game series at Target Field in April, which was the first sign of the Twins’ struggles at home.
“People are going to try to use [the series] as a measuring stick, and all those things, of where you’re at,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “There are way too many games to put it into any category of being essential or critical or you have to win ‘X’ many games in the series.
“Young players are looking for things to continue to build confidence. To go out there, to play them well, whatever the outcomes might be, will be as important as maybe winning the games.”
The Twins did that Thursday when the Mariners botched two fly balls and their starter, Ariel Miranda, gave up six runs on 10 hits in four innings.
Jose Berrios improved to 6-1 for the Twins by pitching a career-high eight innings and holding Seattle to two runs on five hits, with six strikeouts.
So the Twins’ often shaky bullpen is rested ahead of the series with Cleveland, the next step in testing the legitimacy of the team’s precarious first-place standing.
The Twins scored five runs in the first inning. Brian Dozier led off with a double that right fielder Ryan Hanigan misplayed, and Eduardo Escobar followed with a two-run homer. Miguel Sano walked and, two outs later, Jorge Polanco bunted his way on and Gimenez belted a three-run homer.
Miranda had gone six consecutive starts without giving up more than two earned runs in at least five innings of work.
Gimenez homered off the left field foul pole in the bottom of the third to put the Twins ahead 6-1.
“A lot of people, and rightfully so, thought it might be a little fluky that we were in first place at the end of April,” Gimenez said. “Now we’re in the middle of June, and here we are still in first place.
“I don’t think you can call it a fluke anymore, to be honest with you.”