Miguel Sano has been the symbol of a failed hitting strategy in 2021 for the Twins. In the pursuit of towering home runs to left field, these had been the horrible truths of Sano as a 6-4, 300-pound-plus slugger taking on the ever-increasing velocity and variety of big-league pitching:
Entering Tuesday, and dating to the start of the 2020 mini-season, Sano had struck out 125 times in 264 at-bats, for a .473 strikeout percentage. He had 49 hits in those at-bats for an average of .186.
It was so horrendous that manager Rocco Baldelli, Captain Positive since taking over the Bomba Squad in 2019, couldn't stand to watch every day. He sat down Sano and used Willians Astudillo at first base against righthanded pitchers that threw harder than Astudillo.
Last Saturday, Sano popped a three-run home run into Target Field's short porch to give the Twins a 5-4 victory over Oakland.
There was no long-term benefit to assume from that fly ball to right. Miguel wasn't thinking about that porch; he was fighting to avoid a strikeout and made some contact.
That changed Tuesday night. With the Twins down 4-0 in the fourth inning and headed toward another loss to the White Sox, Lance Lynn left a cutter inside and Sano did what should be done — hit a line-drive home run into the left field seats.
Next at-bat in the sixth, he took a pitch in the heart of the plate deep onto the grass beyond center field. Finally, on a pitch a couple of inches farther away in the eighth, he used that immense strength to whack a two-run homer over the high wall in right-center field — the last of four RBI in what became a 5-4 victory.
I had a conversation with a very knowledgeable gentleman in the art of big-league hitting on this subject Tuesday morning: "Can Sano be fixed?"
Miguel could have been wiretapped into the conversation, because this guy's possible solution was to convince him to go to the plate focused on center field rather than the second deck in left.
Then, perhaps, if the pitch was in and a bit offspeed (Lynn's cutter), he'd be a touch early and hammer it to left; if the pitch was middle-out, Miguel remains the rare righty strong enough to go out to right center; and, if he stays on a pitch in the middle, look out, juniper bushes.
For one night, we saw that. It would be an upset if Miguel sticks with such a disciplined strategy.
We saw a half-season of that to finish 2019. We saw a player weighing maybe 280 in the spring of 2020 after a winter of conditioning. The COVID shutdown ruined that. He's been bigger since then.
And he's also been a symbol of the Twins' belief in what they saw with the nuclear baseball in 2019, when the Bomba Squad hit the record 307 home runs and won 101 games.
Who needs athletes on the field? We'll hit home runs and trudge around the bases.
When they went with Aaron Sabato, a giant slugger from North Carolina without a real position as their first draft choice in 2020, I became convinced:
The Twins decisionmakers remain committed to the all-mighty greatness of home runs. They aren't worked up that when Byron Buxton is hurt, they have the same speed on the field as Legion Post 248 in Ely, Minn.
They believe in Bomba. And if that's the case, they better keep Miguel fixed for more than one cool night in May.