DETROIT – Mitch Garver led off Saturday night’s game with a blast into the seats in left. Then Max Kepler went deep in the second. Then Jorge Polanco added a two-run shot in the fifth. And more were on the way.
It was just like the Twins have done all season. Hit a couple of home runs then, suddenly, it looks like there’s a race to the bat rack. Everyone crushes. Everyone jogs around the bases. The Twins have obliterated pitches while storming to the top of the AL Central, and now it has taken them where no team has gone before.
Garver’s second home run of the night, off Joe Jimenez’s first pitch of the ninth inning, was the Twins’ sixth of their 10-7 loss to Detroit and their 268th home run of the season, establishing a single-season record for the most times doing the hardest thing there is to do in sports.
Although it doesn’t seem to be hard for these guys.
“Honestly, I’m happy,” said Garver, who has slugged 26 home runs in his breakout season, “because first of all, homers are pretty cool, and I like hitting them. Second of all, I kind of looked in the dugout, because we’re all fighting to kind of do the same thing. It’s a little bittersweet tonight, going off the loss, but like I said, it was going to happen at some point. It was just a matter of when. Now we can kind of get over it and get back to playing some ball.”
The only upset of the night was that the Twins lost, ending a six-game winning streak and eight-game winning streak on the road. They had hit at least six homers four previous times this season, winning all four games while scoring at least 14 runs in each game.
But they nevertheless passed the 2018 New York Yankees to become the best homer-hitting team of all time. And, since they are averaging 1.99 home runs a game, that breakneck pace has them destined to break through the 300 barrier and put up a number that no one could fathom at the beginning of the season.
Polanco’s home run was his 20th of the season, giving the Twins eight players with at least that many homers this season. That’s also a major league record.
“I know that I haven’t seen many runs, any runs, really, that have been like this that has just continued and guys get hot and teams get hot for a week or a couple of weeks,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “To do it for five straight months at that pace, it is special, it really is.”
Despite losing the game — lefthander Martin Perez was mauled by the Tigers’ seven-run third inning — the Twins savored the moment some. Eddie Rosario addressed the team after the loss, pointing out that baseball has been around a long time, so anything that happens for the first time is a big deal.
“I said to the guys that it’s so awesome to play for this team,” Rosario said. “Everybody’s doing an awesome job. I think it’s the best year I’ve played in baseball, seeing these guys hitting homers and breaking records. I’ve never seen eight players with more than 20 homers. I wanted to try and make everyone happy and feel good in the clubhouse.”
Garver has been the human countdown clock in recent games, informing players on the bench after each home run how close they were getting to the record. Kepler doesn’t remember hearing Garver on Saturday, but when Nelson Cruz led off eighth with a blast to center that tied the mark, Kepler looked out toward left field and saw Twins fans holding up a cardboard sign with “267” on it.
“I was like, ‘Oh, we actually tied it,’ ” Kepler said. “Let’s keep it simple. [But] the last at-bat before Mitch came up, because I was hitting eighth, I was feeling frisky, trying to hit it over all the seats and stuff. But I got that walk and kept the line moving. Mitch did it. That’s what counts.”
A Tigers official raced to the spot where the ball landed to negotiate with the fan who caught that ball. He would have to do it all over again an inning later when Garver stepped to the plate and propelled the Twins into history with a 402-foot drive.
“When I saw the lineup turn over, I was excited that I was going to get a chance to do it,” Garver said. “I think everybody was kind of thinking the same thing. I went up there with the right plan. I planned to attack a fastball. I got it first pitch. I put one of my better swings on it.”