CHICAGO – The depth and versatility the Twins have thrived on was tested this week against the White Sox.
And as they have most times this season, the Twins came up aces.
With Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez on the bench Thursday because of nagging injuries, the Twins went out and rolled past Chicago 10-5, completing a three-game sweep while setting a major league record for most home runs on the road in the process.
Jake Cave homered twice and C.J. Cron once for the Twins, who have 141 homers away from Target Field. The 2001 Giants of Barry Bonds had the old record of 138 road home runs.
The Twins eased their way to a 6-0 lead through two innings Thursday with eight singles and a walk against Dylan Cease, including two-run hits by Cron and Nelson Cruz.
But this has been the Summer of Swat for this Twins team, and bigger blows were coming. Cave led off the third inning with an opposite-field home run, and Cron followed with a home run to center, the 11th time the Twins have hit back-to-back homers.
They started small and finished big against Cease, a righthander whose fastball averaged 98 miles per hour, in maintaining their 3 1/2-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central.
“It almost looked like we shortened up at times,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We almost just did what we had to do to put the ball in play and just put a good swing on the ball instead of the swings that we’ve seen some of our guys put on throughout the year. That kind of approach worked out.”
The Twins are seven homers shy of breaking the major league record of 267 homers in a season, set by the Yankees last year. But they remain committed to winning the AL Central, and that means winning without key players.
Sano had a sore right forearm after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday and also had an upset stomach, but he was available off the bench Thursday. Kepler has a sore right knee, but he tested it before the game and could have been used if needed. Gonzalez had a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his abdominal strain Wednesday that came back clean, but he is still out. And Byron Buxton remains on the injured list with a sore left shoulder.
“Almost every person in our lineup has been down at some point this year,” Baldelli said. “Sometimes fairly insignificant, injurywise, sometimes significant. Every single guy we have turned to for filling in those spots have produced.”
The early run support boosted Jose Berrios, who entered the game with an 8.44 ERA in August but held Chicago to three runs over six innings on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight. The All-Star opened with four shutout innings before the White Sox scored twice in the fifth.
Berrios (11-7) did throw four wild pitches, so he is not back to his old self, but at least he has a jumping-off point.
Fortunately for him, the offense was at full throttle, even if not at full strength.
“We were missing some really good players out there,” said Cave, who has five home runs in the past six games. “But if you look at our lineup even with those guys down I think we still had a great lineup out there. It just goes to show how dangerous we are because even when we don’t have everybody that’s supposed to be the starting nine, it’s still a very dangerous lineup.”