KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jorge Soler is the new AL home run king after all. Which makes his role in ending Tyler Duffey’s scoreless-innings streak — that role being a 420-foot blast to left field — sting a little less.
“I would have rather not given up a home run today,” Duffey deadpanned after the Twins’ 4-3 victory over the Royals, in which the righthander earned the victory by giving up a tying home run in the seventh inning, then watching Nelson Cruz untie it with a homer of his own in the eighth. “I haven’t checked my stats in three months. You just go try and pitch and get outs.”
He has gotten a lot of them lately. Duffey hadn’t given up a run since July 28, a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless appearances and 23⅔ innings. Duffey gave up seven home runs in his first 26 appearances this year, but none since July 13 until Saturday.
“I’m just fortunate there were some games where I had some great plays behind me,” he said. “Today it felt great, too. I just threw Soler a strike. I didn’t need to.”
He wasn’t the only Twins pitcher to make statistical news Saturday. Taylor Rogers became the ninth Twin, and first since Glen Perkins in 2015, to save 30 games in a season.
And Cody Stashak, making his first career start, recorded two strikeouts (and gave up a mammoth Soler home run of his own), giving him 25 for the season. He will become the first pitcher since 1900 to finish a season with 25 strikeouts and only one walk.
Numbers no worry
Nelson Cruz’s eighth-inning home run Saturday didn’t just put the Twins in front for good. It also cut Eddie Rosario’s lead in half in a minor statistical footnote to the 2019 season.
Only four players in Twins history have ever led the team in the three Triple Crown categories — batting average, home runs and RBI — in one season. Cruz, whose .311 average and 41 home runs are best on the team, could become the fifth, and third in four years, if he can catch Rosario for the club lead in RBI. Cruz has 107, Rosario 108.
“Ha, he can have it,” Cruz said of the statistical race. “He’s having a great season, too.”
Cruz apparently means it; he said he has been told he won’t be in the lineup for Sunday’s season finale, which is fine with him.
Cruz’s home run was the Twins’ 304th this season. But the Yankees had 305 going into Saturday night’s game at Texas, meaning the Twins have to play catch-up Sunday if they are to hold the MLB record. Not that they seem to be dwelling on it.
“We’re thinking about what’s ahead [in the playoffs],” Cruz said. “We have to just make sure we keep working, make any adjustments we need over the last few games, and make sure we stay healthy.”
Rosario, by the way, was the most recent Twins Triple Crown winner, doing it last season. Brian Dozier led all three categories (though he was one of only two Twins with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting lead) in 2016. Kirby Puckett led the Twins in all three in 1992, and John Castino did it in 1980.
Kepler works out
With two trainers watching from up close, Max Kepler spent a half-hour making very deliberate 100-foot throws from the outfield, testing his sore left shoulder. He also caught some fly balls on the run, as he prepares to return after almost three weeks.
“Max has been doing very well. The reports have been very positive,” Baldelli said. “He personally is becoming very optimistic about this upcoming week. When we see him very optimistic, that allows us to be optimistic.”