CHICAGO – Twins manager Rocco Baldelli knew that Jonathan Schoop was spending more time on the bench recently, but he maintained that the second baseman would be needed eventually and would produce when given that chance.
And that time has come. With Byron Buxton still on the injured list, Max Kepler a late scratch because of a sore right knee, Marwin Gonzalez having a sore abdominal muscle and Luis Arraez in a 3-for-17 skid, Schoop started his third consecutive game Wednesday — and he has jumped right back into the production line.
Schoop’s three-run homer in the second inning set the tone for the Twins to hold off the White Sox 8-2 at Guaranteed Rate Field. He added a solo shot in the eighth, giving him five home runs over his past five games, including four over the past three. Five of his 13 career multihomer games have come this season.
“It’s fun, it’s fun,” Schoop said of going deep twice, “but it is fun to win too, you know. Sometimes you hit a home run and you don’t win.”
Schoop’s two home runs, however, contributed to a victory that put the Twins a season-best 30 games over .500 with 30 games to play, and kept them 3 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland in the American League Central.
Mitch Garver followed Schoop’s eighth-inning homer with a two-run shot that went 433 feet, giving the Twins 258 home runs for the season, only nine shy of matching the major league record of 267 hit by last year’s Yankees. The Twins average 1.92 home runs a game, putting in range of setting the record on Labor Day against the Tigers.
Schoop also has 21 homers on the season, the seventh Twins player to hit at least 20. That ties the major league record held by seven other teams — and Jorge Polanco, with 19 home runs, could put them over the top any day now.
“I hope so,” Schoop said. “He’s going to get it. Polanco is a good hitter, so he’s is going to get it. I hope so.”
The power backed another strong performance from the pitching staff. Jake Odorizzi threw six innings before Trevor May and Cody Stashak worked the final three.
Chicago scored first on a first-inning RBI double by Jose Abreu. But the Twins answered in the second. Eddie Rosario reached on a pop-fly single to center as shortstop Tim Anderson raced back to make the play but missed the ball. Miguel Sano struck out, and C.J. Cron had a home run taken away from him when White Sox center fielder Leury Garcia jumped at the wall to snatch his sky-high fly.
But Ehire Adrianza — making his third start of the season in right field — singled to keep the inning alive, and Schoop got hold of a 1-1 cut fastball from Chicago lefthander Ross Detwiler and bashed into the seats in left for a 3-1 Twins lead. The Twins added two runs in the third inning, enabling Odorizzi to pitch with a nice cushion.
Odorizzi (14-6) held Chicago to two runs, five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. On July 24, Odorizzi gave up nine earned runs to the Yankees. In six starts since then, he has posted a 2.65 ERA.
After May pitched the seventh inning for his ninth scoreless outing in 10 August appearances, The Twins added three runs in the eighth on their two home runs, putting themselves in position to sweep the three-game series Thursday.
Schoop remained patient and prepared when he got only a handful of starts earlier this month. But Baldelli needs him now, and Schoop is responding.
“He’s here to win. He’s here for his teammates,” Baldelli said. “He supports everyone all the time and when he goes out there, he’s done a nice job for us. We pull for everyone, obviously, here, but it’s nice to see Schoopy go out there and do what he did tonight.”