CINCINNATI — The Twins delighted in their distance during batting practice before Tuesday's game. They hit baseballs into the looming upper deck in left field. They hit them off the building that looks like a giant riverboat in center field. Heck, Josh Donaldson hit one halfway up the seats in right field — lefthanded.
Yep, Great American Ball Park is the Great Home Run Ball Park this year, and the Twins took advantage on Tuesday, even though the Reds clobbered one more than they did. Mitch Garver wrested the lead away from Cincinnati with a three-run homer in the fifth, and Jorge Polanco did the same in the ninth, smacking a high slider just inside the right field foul pole for three runs that delivered a 7-5 victory.
"Super impressive at-bat. He was fighting off some really tough pitches," Garver said of Polanco's third home run in five games. "He fouled one off his shin — if you've done that before, you know how much it hurts. That showed some true grit right there."
Summoned to protect a 5-4 lead, Reds closer Heath Hembree walked pinch-hitter Jake Cave and Max Kepler to open the inning, unleashing a torrent of boos from the Cincinnati crowd of 18,396. Brent Rooker fought off three two-strike pitches before finally whiffing, but Polanco continued the battle, fouling off five pitches before belting a low-and-inside slider high into the night, setting off a celebration in the Twins' dugout.
"I went to the plate aggressive, and then I kind of said to myself, 'You've got to slow down. Make it simple,'" Polanco said of his 17th home run of the season. "I waited for a pitch to try to hit a line drive."
Or, in this case, a high-arcing homer, the night's fifth. That's 169 hit here this season, making Great American the only stadium that's witnessed more homers this year than Target Field.
Which isn't helpful if you're a pitcher. Kenta Maeda, handed a 1-0 third-inning lead on back-to-back doubles by Kepler and Rooker, needed only two pitches to give that lead away. Eugenio Suarez blasted his first pitch, an 89 mph fastball, 389 feet into the right field seats to tie the game, and Tucker Barnhardt crushed his next pitch, a low sinker, more than 400 feet to right-center.
A Jesse Winker double drove in another, making it 3-1 — until Garver reclaimed the lead for the Twins with his three-run blast, the fourth by a Twins catcher in the past seven games. Of course, he only got the chance because Maeda didn't make an out to start the inning, instead lining a sharp single to left, his first hit as a Twin.
"I always enjoy my at-bats. And any time a pitcher can get on base, that's a chance to drive in more runs," said Maeda, who now owns 28 hits in his six big-league seasons. "I'm really glad I got that hit."
Again, though, the lead didn't last long. When Maeda took the mound again, pinch-hitter Shogo Akiyama lined a one-out single off his countryman, and Jonathan India, named NL Rookie of the Month for July on Monday, deposited a splitter into the left field seats.
John Gant and Danny Coulombe kept the Reds from adding to their lead, setting up Polanco's big ninth-inning moment. Then came Alex Colome, who hadn't converted a save since April 7 — but may get a few more chances now that Taylor Rogers is injured and Hansel Robles has been traded.
Like Hembree, Colome got into trouble immediately, allowing a single to Tyler Nyquin and a walk to Suarez. But Barnhart popped up, Aristides Aquino struck out, and India ended the game by grounding into a forceout, earning Colome his third save in seven opportunities.
"I had a conversation with Alex [on Sunday] about being prepared to throw the ninth inning," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who added that the role won't be the veteran's alone. "He composed himself well, he went out and got some outs for us and he got the job done."