KANSAS CITY, MO. – Fastballs, curveballs or changeups. Left field, center or right. Miguel Sano is not missing many pitches and is launching them all over ballparks.
“Sano has been a beast in the middle of our lineup,” Twins righthander Phil Hughes said, “a guy I feel like no one wants to pitch to right now.”
The big man was locked in again Sunday, fueling the Twins to a 7-5 victory over Kansas City by going 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBI. He had nine RBI over the abbreviated two-game series. He has 25 RBI overall, a gaudy number for a month. And 14 of those 25 RBI have come against the Royals.
Sano was batting .226 as recently as April 21. Over his past seven games, he is batting .448 with three home runs and 12 RBI. Over the past four games, Sano has had three three-hit games. The home run was his 50th in 219 games, making him the fastest to reach 50 of any Twins player.
“He had a heck of a trip,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I don’t how many hits or RBI, but they are piling up. He has been a big force for us.”
The series was shortened after Saturday’s game was rained out. The start of Sunday’s game was delayed 63 minutes because of more rain. April showers before more power, as the Twins handed the Royals their ninth consecutive loss, improving to 5-0 vs. Kansas City this season.
After striking out against Jason Hammel in the first inning, Sano wore sunglasses at the plate the rest of the game. On a cloudy day.
“I didn’t see the ball really good,” Sano said.
Kansas City scored twice off Hughes in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead, but the Twins answered in the third. Sano crushed a Hammel pitch 409 feet off the back wall of the Royals bullpen for a three-run homer.
The Twins added two more runs in the fourth, the second scoring on a rocket single to left by Sano. The ball was measured at an astounding 114.6 miles per hour.
After Lorenzo Cain’s fifth-inning home run pulled Kansas City within 5-3, Sano restored a three-run lead in the sixth with a two-out RBI single to right off tricky righthander Peter Moylan, as the Royals pitched to Sano even with first base open.
Hughes (4-1) gave up four runs over 5⅔ innings. Ryan Pressly got out of the sixth inning before Taylor Rogers and Matt Belisle each threw a perfect inning of relief. Brandon Kintzler gave up a two-out homer to Whit Merrifield in the ninth and an infield single to Mike Moustakas, but he struck out Cain as the tying run to earn his seventh save.
Sano’s turnaround can be traced to more selectiveness at the plate. He entered Sunday having walked 16.9 percent of his plate appearances, up from 10.9 last season. His strikeout rate of 32.6 percent is still high, but it’s down from 36 percent a year ago.
Sano said he is trying to let pitches travel deeper over the plate before hitting them. It has helped him lay off some pitches off the plate, but he still can pull others to left-center. That approach helped in his at-bat against a sidearming Moylan.
The Twins are confident entering May because they went 12-11 in April, a big leap from their 7-17 mark a year ago. But Sano also sounds confident that anything over the plate is going to become a run.
“I need to prove it every day and do my job,” he said. “I’m working really hard with everybody here. And the way I work, I need to put it into the game.”