CHICAGO – The White Sox might be improved, but the Twins spent the weekend showing them that it might not be enough to top them in the AL Central.
It was a successful business trip for the Twins, who got a taste of what life will be like on the road by spending six days in Chicago. By taking two of three games, including a 14-2 blitzing on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Twins gave the White Sox a taste of what the season series could look like.
They swatted four home runs on Sunday — two from Nelson Cruz — and made righthander Kenta Maeda’s Twins debut drama-free.
The Twins scored 27 runs over the weekend, their most in the first three games of any season since 1996, when they scored 30.
“I actually think they’re going to have a good team,” outfielder Jake Cave said of the White Sox. “I just think we have a better team, basically.”
Cave started things off in the first inning with his second career grand slam, an opposite-field blast off White Sox righthander Reynaldo Lopez that just cleared the fence in left. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez never slowed down as he ran after the ball and crashed into the fence. He left the game one inning later because of lightheadedness.
A grand slam normally vaults a player to the top of the list of impressive performances, but Cave has Cruz as a teammate. And Cruz put on a signature performance, going 4-for-5 with two home runs, seven RBI and four runs scored. It’s the sixth time he’s had seven RBI in a game.
And Cruz’s 12 total bases tied him for the second most by a player at least 40 years old, trailing only Babe Ruth. Cruz tied Jason Giambi, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial and Reggie Jackson.
His one-man assault on White Sox pitching continues. He’s batting .442 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in his past 20 games against them.
“What a guy,” Maeda said. “He’s just hitting home runs, and as a pitcher looking at him, I don’t think there’s a pitch you can throw to him to put him away. I’m really glad we’re on the same team.”
The Twins led 9-0 in the fourth inning — with Lopez leaving late in the first with a tight shoulder — when Cruz socked a 435-foot homer to left-center off Gio Gonzalez. He added a three-run blast in the eighth off Kelvin Herrera to make the score 13-2.
“I’m going to be honest,” Cave said. “He hit that second one today, and I looked right at Rocco [Baldelli], and I go, ‘Damn, this guy’s really good.’ Rocco was like, ‘Yeah. It’s actually pretty incredible.’ So that’s cool.”
Baldelli brought his team home Sunday night to prepare for the Target Field opener on Tuesday against St. Louis after spending six mostly productive days in the Windy City. Part of the new normal is virus management, and the Twins adjusted to staying in a hotel and not exploring the city. Four Miami Marlins players tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend while in Philadelphia, a reminder of what’s at stake.
“We’re not going to be able to take health for granted, either, so if we stick to our plan, I think we have a good chance of continuing to play, and hopefully continuing to play well and keeping our guys on the field,” Baldelli said. “If we stray, we could have problems.”