Eddie Rosario jumped on a fat changeup from Dylan Covey in the third inning and laced it into the seats in right. Max Kepler barreled a Josh Osich fastball in the seventh, launching it into the juniper jungle behind the center field wall.
The pair of three-run blasts gave the Twins a major league-leading 104 home runs. But Kepler isn’t surprised.
“I look at this team,” he said. “I said before spring training started, I looked at the lineup, looked at the pitchers and I knew this team would do damage.”
The Twins roar into Memorial Day, a point where the standings are taken more seriously, with a 7-0 roasting of the White Sox on Sunday at Target Field. Jake Odorizzi earned his seventh victory, tying his total for all of last season. The Twins improved to a mind-boggling 20 games over .500 at 36-16 while increasing their lead to 10 games in the AL Central over Cleveland.
The Twins have baseball’s best offense and have hit the most home runs. They have a pitching staff that has performed better than expected. They have a young core stepping closer to its potential. They have a lineup fortified with professional mashers.
“All of them have the ability to do great stuff,” Kepler said.
The club is believing a special season can be had. Two years after earning a wild-card berth, the Twins eye a division title instead of a one-game showdown in the postseason.
“I think this is probably the best team I’ve been on here,” said righthander Kyle Gibson, in his seventh season with the Twins. “2015 was a lot of fun, 2017 was a lot of fun, but I don’t think we had the everyday confidence that this team does. And I don’t think that there was the buzz in the crowd and the buzz around the Twin Cities [like] right now.”
Sunday, an announced crowd of 39,913 — the Twins’ largest since Opening Day 2016 — watched the home team finish off an overmatched Chicago squad. Rosario’s shot capped a four-run third inning before Kepler put the game out of reach with his third home run in as many games.
The Twins have won 10 of 11 games. They shut out an opponent for the sixth time and swept an opponent in a three-game series for the fifth time.
The Twins have established themselves among baseball’s elite teams. And they have done it by averaging two home runs a game.
Last season, eight of the 10 teams that were in a postseason spot on Memorial Day went on to reach the playoffs. The exceptions were the Nationals, whose slide has continued into this season, and the Diamondbacks, who were run down by the late-charging Dodgers.
Yet the landscape is littered with teams that have let October baseball slip through their fingers. That includes the 2001 Twins, who were 50-31 at the halfway point but lost shortstop Cristian Guzman to a mysterious shoulder injury during the All-Star break and never recovered.
Cautionary tales aside, these Twins prefer to dream about how great of a season they could have.
“What we have done is tremendous,” center fielder Byron Buxton said, “but I know there still is more in the tank. The warmer it gets, the more the ball is going to fly.”