CLEVELAND – There was laughter, there were jokes, there was even a little playful heckling going on in the Twins dugout Wednesday, the sort of cathartic exhale that reveals just how miserable the last couple of weeks have been.
But when the Twins' 10-2 blowout of Cleveland was complete, it didn't take Mitch Garver long to snap back into last-place reality.
And this is a guy who hit two home runs.
"I'm happy about it. I mean, I'm as happy as I can be," Garver said of the Twins' first road victory in three weeks. "It's just a step. We still lost the series. We still lost the [previous] series to Pittsburgh. We've been losing a ton of games, so it's not like we're happy with where we're at."
Maybe not, but there was no denying the joy the Twins finally found in a baseball game again, right from the start. Byron Buxton led off the game with a home run, Josh Donaldson matched him moments later, and Jorge Polanco made it a trio of homers and a 4-0 lead before Cleveland lefthander Logan Allen could retire a batter.
Buxton went 5-for-5 and finished a triple short of the cycle, the Twins became the first visiting team in Progressive Field's 29-year history to smack six home runs in a game, and J.A. Happ turned in the shutdown performance that has so far eluded his starting-rotation partners.
"Everywhere you looked today, you saw positives," manager Rocco Baldelli said after his team improved to 8-15 with the first-place Royals coming to Target Field this weekend. "What we felt today is the feeling that you really want to hold on to. The more fun you have, the more relaxed you play."
Nobody is more relaxed than Buxton, who on the second pitch of the game took over the AL home run lead with eight. The first five-hit game of his career lifted his batting average to .438, his slugging percentage to .938 and his on-base percentage to .471, for an OPS of 1.409. He had three-fourths of a cycle in the first four innings, with two more chances. He beat out an infield single in the sixth inning, then came up again in the eighth.
"It didn't really hit me until my last at-bat. As I'm walking up, I hear this little kid [say], 'All you need is a triple,' " Buxton said. "I'm like, 'That is true.' "
He pulled a line drive into the left field corner, and briefly considered challenging the arm of former teammate Eddie Rosario.
"Me knowing Rosie, I wanted to kind of play around with him," Buxton said with a smile. "But, nah, just hold it up and take what I get."
He got another double.
"He's got to be the most electric baseball player in the league right now. He's certainly the hottest," Garver said. "Everything is going his way. He's swinging the bat really well, he's playing great defense, he's running the bases."
That's as opposed to Garver, who was mired in an 0-for-18 slump and hitting only .145 before connecting — twice — off Cleveland rookie reliever Sam Hentges, a Mounds View High graduate making his third career MLB appearance.
Both came on 96 mph fastballs that strayed over the inside corner, allowing Garver to blast line drives over the tall Progressive Field left field wall.
It's progress, Garver said. Not a solution.
"I know I'm not there yet. I don't think that I should be totally content," he said. "I'm obviously pleased with the performance today, but I know that there's still work to be done."
Still, didn't the six-pack of home runs, including one from Willians Astudillo, give him flashbacks to the 2019 homer-happy Twins?
"No. It's not the Bomba Squad anymore," Garver said, shaking his head. "This team is a little bit more dynamic."