Of course the Twins hadn’t routed the Yankees this bad in decades. They never had Miguel Sano before.
OK, the rookie slugger wasn’t exactly the only contributor to the Twins’ 10-1 victory Friday night, but he certainly set the tone for a satisfying night for the home team. Sano clubbed a two-run shot to straightaway center in the first inning, Torii Hunter added a milestone homer in the eighth and Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier also connected, and the Twins — behind shutout pitching for former Yankees righthander Phil Hughes — beat New York for only the second time in their past 10 Target Field meetings.
“I don’t know how he hit that ball out, but that’s him. He’s an animal,” Hunter said of Sano’s third career homer. “He kind of tied himself up. I thought it was a popup, and when I looked again, it was flying out in center field. That guy is strong.”
Picky about his pitches, too. Sano looked at five pitches before swinging at a 3-2 slider from Michael Pineda, and he couldn’t even extend his arms completely to get the inside pitch.
“He’s able to see it and recognize it before he decides what kind of swing to put on it,” manager Paul Molitor said. “That’s a pretty good recipe.”
Beating the Yankees is satisfying, if a little rare around here, and the Twins made it even better Friday by adding milestones and minor accomplishments galore. Starting with the victory itself: Not since July 31, 1991, had the Twins beaten New York by nine or more runs.
Meanwhile, Hunter tied his mentor Kirby Puckett by smashing the 207th home run of his Twins career. Joe Mauer laced a deep fly to the left-field wall to catch Twins icon Tony Oliva with his 329th double. Kurt Suzuki delivered a pair of run-producing hits, the first time this season he has contributed more than one. Eddie Rosario doubled three times, only the second Twins player in the past six seasons — Josmil Pinto was the other — to collect three in a game. Alex Rodriguez challenged the Target Field booing record (non-Pierzynski division), and delighted the crowd by looking at a third strike.
And Hughes pitched his best game yet against the team that drafted and developed him, shutting out his former teammates over seven innings, his seventh quality start in his past nine games. Even better: Hughes, who leads AL pitchers in hits and home runs allowed, kept the ball in the ballpark all night, the first time in nine starts — and only the fourth time all season — he has not surrendered a home run.
“I’d like for [home runs] not to be part of my game,” Hughes (9-6) deadpanned after winning his fifth consecutive decision.
The changeup isn’t normally a big part of his game, but it was as the game went Friday. Recognizing that Hughes’ ex-teammates know him very well, pitching coach Neil Allen advised him to back away from his fastball. The result: only four singles over the first six innings, and back-to-back strikeouts on changeups.
The righthander gave up a pair of two-out singles in the first inning, but worked out of trouble, then shut down New York on only one infield hit over the next four. In the seventh, Hughes loaded the bases with two out, only the second time he has done that all year. Does he remember the first time?
“Yeah, it was a grand slam, right?” Hughes said of his early May encounter with Oakland’s Stephen Vogt. “Cool.”
This was way cooler for him: After Molitor visited the mound, but left him in the game, he retired Jacoby Ellsbury to preserve the shutout.
“That’s the first time I can remember him doing that,” Molitor said. “He’s just gaining confidence in that pitch.”