Kennys Vargas took early batting practice Tuesday with a mission: Figure out what’s wrong with his righthanded swing.
Maybe he found the “detonate” button.
Vargas, only 3-for-33 (.091) against lefthanded pitching when he stepped into the batter’s box in the third inning, unloaded on a Derek Holland changeup and blasted it 475 feet, the third-longest home run in Target Field history, according to the Twins’ estimate. Even better, it put the Twins ahead for good in a crazy game they wound up winning 9-7 over the White Sox.
“It was crushed. You don’t see balls go that far up there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the homer, which landed in the second deck just to the left side of the center field club, a distance only Jim Thome has bettered in the stadium’s eight-year history. “I know he wants to be a guy you can count on to give you balance from both sides. It’s been fairly lopsided to this point.”
Vargas is a .303 hitter against righthanders this season, but there’s not much point in switch-hitting if you only hit from one side. That’s why he worked on it Tuesday, and “Paul Molitor gave me some good advice,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot on the right side because I know the team needs me to start hitting on that side.”
Actually, they probably wouldn’t mind if he could pitch a little, too. The Twins sent their best pitcher to the mound in Ervin Santana, and watched him give up six runs in five innings — yet pick up his ninth victory anyway.
“It was tough. I don’t have my best performance … but our offense took care of it,” said Santana, who also stranded runners in scoring position in all five innings he pitched. “They got my back [Tuesday].”
It can’t be easy pitching in this ballpark lately. With five homers Tuesday, Target Field became the most homer-happy ballpark in the major leagues, its 119 homers in 39 games more than the 118 in 41 games hit at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
The offense, missing during the Twins’ four-game sweep to Cleveland over the weekend, started with Miguel Sano, who crushed a first-inning home run to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. Vargas’ homer was the big hit in the Twins’ five-run third, but they added another in the fifth on a Byron Buxton single, and in the eighth on Sano’s single that was misplayed by Avisail Garcia.
Minnesota had to keep adding on to its lead, though, because the White Sox kept trying to take it back. They managed to do so in the third inning, following Jose Abreu’s first of two doubles. Garcia hit a home run that hit the facing on the right-field upper deck, scoring two runs, and Matt Davidson made it back-to-back homers by launching a ball into the upper deck in left.
The biggest culprit in Santana’s extended difficulty was Abreu, who smacked four hits in his first four at-bats, each one traveling a little farther than the last. He singled in the first inning, though Santana worked out of the jam; doubled in a run in the third, mostly because Eddie Rosario made a futile throw to the plate in hopes of catching Melky Cabrera; and doubled off the center field wall in the fourth, though Santana stranded him there.
The White Sox outhit the Twins 16-12, but left 14 runners on base, including a runner at third six different times. The only Twins pitcher who provided a 1-2-3 inning was closer Brandon Kintzler, who recorded the final three outs on only five pitches.