SEATTLE — Rest may be becoming an issue for the Twins’ starting rotation. They’re getting too much of it while their teammates bat.
The Twins became the highest-scoring team in the major leagues on Saturday night, blasted six home runs to take the top spot in that category, too, and handed their best pitcher a 15-run lead. But Jose Berrios was knocked out in the fifth inning amid a four-run uprising by Seattle, and didn’t earn the victory in an 18-4 rout of the Mariners, the Twins’ fifth straight win.
Berrios’ bust, though, was the only glitch in a night that highlighted just how powerful the Twins’ offense has become, even without injured sluggers Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver. The Twins have scored 36 runs in three games here.
“Where our offense is, we all kind of thrive off it,” said C.J. Cron, whose night included career homers No. 100 and 101. “One through nine, everyone wants to be aggressive up there.”
They’re taking it to an extreme. Cron homered twice and Jonathan Schoop did as well. Miguel Sano clobbered his first long ball since last Aug. 30, and Byron Buxton crushed his first grand slam since 2016. The season-high 18 runs pushed the Twins’ total to 258 in just 45 games, most in the majors and most ever by a Twins’ offense so early in a season.
“A very, very special night for our offense,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I haven’t seen too many nights like that.”
Actually, they’re getting kind of frequent this season. The six home runs — Cron missed a third on a fly ball that died on the warning track — give the Twins 87 on the year, a stratospheric number for a team that has long been home run-challenged. Tied with Seattle for the major-league lead now, they are also on pace to break the franchise record for home runs in a season (225, set back in 1963) by early August. And at this rate, Minnesota will break the Yankees’ all-time record of 267 home runs in a season, set last year, before September is a week old.
But a 15-0 lead wasn’t enough to make Berrios a 15-game winner, not when he threw 32 pitches in the fifth inning and still couldn’t retire the side. Berrios’ night had been one of quick innings and long interruptions, and he tried everything he could to keep warm while his teammates piled it on.
“We hit a lot tonight, but I wasn’t thinking about it. Just trying to be in a rhythm, stay warm,” Berrios said. “I was moving around, moving my arm, trying to keep warm.”
When the Mariners clicked, though, “I don’t really know” what happened, Berrios said. “Three hits were with two strikes, so they made that adjustment.”
Baldelli said he didn’t want to take his ace out, but felt he had no choice as the pitch count mounted. “Some very, very long breaks for him,” Baldelli said. “It can definitely be challenging. If it wasn’t for purely pitch count reasons, we probably let him go out and finish that inning. But we just wanted to make sure we did the right thing.”
The Twins knocked lefthander Wade LeBlanc from the game after recording only seven outs and allowing seven runs. Cron’s second-inning homer, a blast into the Twins’ bullpen, opened the floodgates, with Max Kepler following with a double, Sano and Jason Castro drawing walks, and Buxton blasting a fastball off the scoreboard in left field, the Twins’ first grand slam of the season.
If one five-run inning is good, two are better, and the Twins followed up by hitting three homers in the next inning. Cron, whose seven home runs in May are just two behind MLB leader Alex Bregman of Houston, led off with his second shot of the night, a blast deep to center field, and Sano followed moments later with a vintage Sano rainbow deep to left field, on LeBlanc’s final pitch of the night.
Righthander Parker Markel took over, and immediately walked Castro and gave up an infield hit to Jorge Polanco, bringing up Schoop, who was hitless in the first two games of the series. He smashed one into the seats in left-center, and the Twins were in double digits just three innings in.
But Berrios couldn’t take advantage of the 15-0 lead, surrendering four consecutive hits to open the fifth, plus a wild pitch that scored a run. After he retired Dee Gordon and Mitch Hanigar, Daniel Vogelback singled and Edwin Encarnacion did too, and Rocco Baldelli reluctantly pulled his ace. Tyler Duffey retired four batters, three by strikeout, and earned his first victory of the season by halting the Mariners’ brief rally.
The Twins kept tacking on runs, adding two more on three hits in the sixth on Schoop’s eighth homer, and another in the eighth when Eddie Rosario singled home rookie Luis Arraez. Meanwhile, the Twins’ bullpen kept putting up zeroes, including Austin Adams, who made his Twins debut with two scoreless innings to close the game.
Arraez made his major-league debut when manager Rocco Baldelli began emptying his bench, and he delighted his teammates by smacking a sharp, opposite-field line drive to left-center in the eighth inning, running it out for a double. Arraez, 22, slapped his hands in jubilation as he took on second, and his teammates stood on the top step of the visitors’ dugout applauding.