HOUSTON – What follows is the truth, as certified by baseball soothsayer and Twins hero Royce Lewis.
"A year to the day!" Lewis crowed after leading the Twins to a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the Astros on the first anniversary of his last game. "You can't make this stuff up!"
Yes, the rookie infielder and 2017 No. 1 overall pick, his career twice catastrophically deferred by torn ligaments in his right knee, returned to the Twins exactly 365 days after his last injury, inspiring enough.
But Lewis — shortly after noting the anniversary by musing, "It feels so surreal, right? I think something special is going to happen tonight. I couldn't tell you what, but it just feels like it's kind of that time" — fulfilled his prophecy by hitting a three-run homer to give the Twins an early lead, then driving in the tying, two-out, ninth-inning run against a closer who had converted 22 consecutive saves.
"I'm getting chills," pitcher Sonny Gray said as he talked of Lewis' determination. "It was a welcome sight when we got on the airplane yesterday and he was there, smiling, just being Royce. And then for him to come out today and do that, he's a special kid."
There were a lot of special performances in the Twins' first victory at Minute Maid Park since 2021, including Gray dominating the world champions' lineup for six innings; Alex Kirilloff reaching base five times; Jhoan Duran retiring six consecutive batters in the ninth and 10th innings, and Willi Castro stretching to touch the plate underneath Martín Maldonado's glove to score a run.
And especially Ryan Jeffers, who rocketed the hardest-hit home run by the Twins in the decade and a half that MLB has been measuring exit velocity, a 117.4-mile-per-hour screamer in the 10th inning that drove in the decisive runs.
But, said Gray: "The story of this game is Royce Lewis coming back, and the resilience of this team" after absorbing the shock of Jose Altuve's go-ahead grand slam off previously near-perfect reliever Brock Stewart in the seventh inning. "Just an overall great win."
An overall great development for the recently humdrum Twins, who have been limited to zero or one run nine times this month. Lewis, after enduring his second tortuous 12-month rehab from knee surgery, batted in the heart of the lineup Monday, and made his presence felt right away. He smacked the first pitch he saw, a 78-mph slider from J.P. France, to the warning track in left-center, an oh-so-close announcement that he's healthy and dangerous again.
"I just missed it," Lewis said. "It was a good damage pitch for me."
He got an even better one two innings later, with Carlos Correa and Kirilloff on base. A two-strike fastball from France was just outside, but Lewis leaned over and lifted it down the right-field line, where it landed just past the foul pole.
"My first thought was like, 'Did that actually go over?' I'm still running hard, thinking, 'Let's get a triple out of this,'" Lewis said. "And once they said it was a homer, it just felt awesome."
His teammates agreed, mobbing him in the dugout. "Everyone just giving me hugs," Lewis said. "That's what I live for, man, these friendships. They're lifelong friendships and I truly love these guys."
They loved him even more in the ninth inning, after Altuve's grand slam made it look like a certain loss for the Twins, especially with Ryan Pressly summoned to close it out.
But Kyle Farmer hit a one-out single off Pressly, the former Twins reliever who was 10-for-10 on saves this season, and Kirilloff drew a two-out walk to move Farmer to second.
Lewis took a called strike, then once again reached out at a pitch just off the plate and poked it up the middle. Farmer scored, and the Twins dugout erupted.
"Slider. He kept getting ahead of everyone with sliders. So I was like, 'OK, I'm going to look for one out over the plate more," Lewis said. "He threw it in that zone, and I did exactly what I was hoping to do. Just a good little single."
Just a good little way to punctuate a day that Lewis has dreamed of since last May 29, a day that reminded the Twins what they have been missing for a year.
"That's a hell of a lot of hard work that's paid off. And now we're seeing what this young man can do," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Kind of picked up right where he left off. What a day. What a day for him."