Jorge Polanco's newfound status as the Twins' home run leader seems to be making him impatient.
Polanco, bidding to join Brian Dozier as the only second basemen ever to lead Minnesota in home runs, watched Luis Arraez open the Twins' first at-bat with a four-pitch single to right off Tigers starter Casey Mize, and observed Byron Buxton follow that with a 3-and-2 single into the hole at shortstop.
Then he struck. Quickly.
Mize's first pitch to Polanco was a 94-mph sinker, one that dropped right into the same spot that batting practice pitchers aim for. Polanco calmly and smoothly reached out and hit it 418 feet for his 32nd home run of the season. It just carried onto the berm beyond the center-field fence.
Just like that, the Twins led by three, and though they wouldn't score again until the eighth inning, Polanco had provided enough for an eventual 5-2 victory over Detroit, the Twins' sixth win in their past eight games.
"Our early hitters really set the tone. Polo coming in with a big swing, [his teammates] forcing Mize to throw a bunch of pitches in the first inning, really making him work," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It was a nice way to start the ballgame."
Starting the ballgame nicely is what Polanco does, especially lately. Wednesday's long home run also marked the fourth time this month — out of his eight homers in September — that Polanco has gone deep in the first inning, and the 17th time in his 81-homer career.
It also represented the clutch hit that the Tigers lacked all night. Detroit outhit the Twins 8-7, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and constantly walked off the field frustrated. Never more so, though, than in the eighth inning, when Eric Haase hit what appeared off the bat to be a two-out, game-tying home run ball to center field, one that Buxton timed, jumped and caught at the wall, ending the inning.
"Buck was there, was able to time himself up well," Baldelli said. "That catch is a big reason why we're sitting here as winners in this ballgame."
Then the Twins added to their lead with a two-run eighth, Max Kepler and Nick Gordon driving in the runs, the latter scoring Josh Donaldson who aggressively came home on a relatively shallow sacrifice fly to center.
Michael Pineda allowed only one run in 5⅔ innings, while Juan Minaya and Tyler Duffey each contributed an inning. For the second straight night, Alex Colome allowed the Tigers to score in the ninth inning, but not enough to fumble away the Twins' victory.
Ryan is ready
Joe Ryan was able to throw a bullpen session in California over the weekend while on the bereavement list, and "he's ready to pitch" on Thursday in the series finale, Baldelli said.
The rookie, with 25 strikeouts, three walks and a 2.45 ERA in four career starts, was reinstated to the Twins' roster Wednesday. Charlie Barnes, who pitched four shutout innings against Detroit on short rest Tuesday, was returned to Class AAA St. Paul for the season's final four days.
Like several of the Twins' injured players, closer Taylor Rogers won't accompany the team to Kansas City after Thursday's game. But he still plans to see some more baseball.
"He's going to get a chance to see his brother pitch for the first time in a very, very long time," Baldelli said. Rogers' identical twin brother, righthanded sidearmer Tyler Rogers, leads the majors in pitching appearances this season for the San Francisco Giants, who are trying to break the Dodgers' streak of eight consecutive NL West championships.
"There is literally no reason why he needs to be here for the last couple of days of the year," the manager said of Rogers, out since July with a strained tendon in his middle finger. "He's obviously wishing he was on the field, but there is a silver lining here. He can go watch his brother and make that the memory of a lifetime."