Luis Arraez's three-game mini-slump ended with a couple of hits Sunday, and Josh Donaldson had two extra-base hits for the first time as a Twin. Jose Berrios got his strikeout pitch back, and Andrelton Simmons went deep for the first time all season.
But of all the finally-what-a-relief performances turned in during the Twins' 13-4 victory over the Royals, the biggest one may have been related to the city-block-sized plot of land they were playing on. Yep, Target Field feels like home again.
"Guys are having a great time. Stringing those at-bats together brings a great feel and an energy," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins cut their AL Central deficit to six games behind Kansas City. "There's nothing like it. There's nothing like it when the guys get rolling."
Even if it took awhile. It had never taken the Twins until the season's second month to win a series at 1 Twins Way before now. Heck, only once had it taken more than two series, and even during the year they opened 0-9, they halted the skid during the second series.
So dominating the Royals, romping to their biggest single inning in two years, getting contributions from all nine players in the lineup and finally winning a series in Minneapolis on their fourth try?
Welcome home, indeed.
"We're in a situation now where we've got to win every series, pretty much, until the All-Star break. We recognize that," said Mitch Garver, who hit a three-run homer that capped the Twins' seven-run, third-inning explosion. "Big series for us, bouncing back after Cleveland, after Pittsburgh. Whether we recognize it or not, this was a really monumental series for our season so far."
Simmons and Garver each homered off Kansas City starter Brad Keller to put the game out of reach early, Alex Kirilloff added another off reliever Jake Newberry in the eighth, and Arraez tripled and singled twice, his first hits since last Monday.
Best of all, Berrios recorded his first win, and highest strikeout total (nine) in more than three weeks. The righthander allowed four runs over six innings and saw his ERA rise by more than half a run, to 3.58. But he was far more effective than the numbers indicate; three of the runs charged to him, driven home on a Hunter Dozier home run, scored after a likely double play wasn't turned behind him.
So when his focus waned an inning later in the fifth and he walked ninth-place hitter and allowed an RBI double to Whit Merrifield, pitching coach Wes Johnson snapped him back with a stern visit to the mound.
"Wes came out pretty hot. We needed to get Jose back in the zone and attacking hitters, because his stuff is too good to try to nitpick," Garver said. "We know what we need to do to fire up Jose. Sometimes you've got to get on his butt a little bit. … Up by four runs, we needed him to attack the zone and be our ace."
He was. Berrios immediately got Carlos Santana to pop up a 2-0 pitch, then struck out Salvador Perez on a fastball at the top of the zone. The Royals didn't score again, while the Twins piled it on against a tired Royals bullpen.
Berrios' nine strikeouts were especially encouraging, considering that after opening the season with 20 in his first two games, Berrios, now 3-2, had not recorded more than five since. This time, he reeled off five strikeouts in a row at one point, and got a whopping 19 swings-and-misses, many with a particularly sharp curveball.
After recording his final out, back-to-back strikeouts to end the sixth, Berrios shouted into his glove as he came off the field.
"We need him to be in the zone consistently with all his pitches, because all of his stuff is plus," Garver said. "I think he got the message."