DETROIT – The ZIP code for Hopkinsville, Ky. is 42240. It also was the Twins’ linescore from their first five innings Friday against the Tigers.
By the time the Twins went scoreless in that fifth inning, they were well on their way to a 13-5 trouncing of Detroit at Comerica Park. Jorge Polanco had three hits by then. C.J. Cron hit a three-run homer, and the Twins had sent 26 batters to the plate over the first three innings. It marked their sixth consecutive win, tying for their longest streak of the season, For the second consecutive night, the Twins scored four runs in the first inning to put an opponent in scramble mode.
“Anytime you can jump out to a good early lead and put some runs on the board, it changes how everyone has to react,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Everyone has to move forward, decisionmaking in the game and how it is going to go, So it is very good spot to be in when we can do that.”
Coupled with Cleveland’s 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay, the Twins lead the A.L. Central by 4½ games, their largest advantage since July 16.
The Twins couldn’t exhale right away, however, as righthander Kyle Gibson gave up three runs over the first two innings and looked shaky while doing it. But he settled down to last five innings while throwing 107 pitches, his second most of the season.
Seven Twins went to the plate in the first inning as they took 4-0 lead. Nelson Cruz opened the scoring with an RBI single to center. Eddie Rosario added an RBI single and two more runs scored on fielder’s choices.
But Gibson needed a whopping 35 pitches during the first inning as he got two strikes on five batters but retired only one of them. Ronny Rodriguez hit an RBI double and Dawel Lugo added an RBI single. The Twins covered that in the second with a pair of runs, but back-to-back doubles by John Hicks and Jake Rogers — the bottom two hitters in the Tigers lineup — made it 6-3.
The Twins responded with two runs in the third before scoring four in the fourth. Three of those came on Cron’s 23rd homer, as he clubbed a Matt Hall offering over the right- field wall with two on.
Cron doesn’t look for a certain pitch or a certain part of the plate, he just reacts. He took Hall’s curveball to the opposite field like he meant it.
“It just depends on the situation,” Cron said, “but with guys like that, they’re usually going to throw the fastball inside and the curveball sometimes off the back foot and sometimes down. I just don’t think he hit his location.”
Nevertheless, right fielder Travis Demeritte took just a few steps toward the wall as the ball rocketed into the seats for the Twins’ 262nd homer, five shy of tying the single-season major league record.
“It’s a talented big-league hitter putting a great swing on the ball,” Baldelli said. “You don’t see many no-doubter, opposite-field home runs. But the way the outfielder went after the ball you knew as soon as it was hit he knew it was gone. It was just a great swing.”
Then the Twins could exhale. Gibson was able to get through five innings as he mixed his pitches better. Hicks nicked him for an opposite-field homer in the fourth, but the Twins led 12-4 by then and were in control. In five innings, Gibson (13-6) gave up four runs on 10 hits without walking a batter and striking out five.
“Thankfully, they built up a good lead,” said Gibson, whose 13th win ties a career high,” and the defense played great down the stretch as well.”