CHICAGO — Oh, Guaranteed Rate Field, you guaranteed-run feast. How the Twins have missed you.
Nowhere do Twins' fly balls sail farther and more frequently than at this South Side launchpad. Alex Kirilloff homered twice Tuesday, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Jose Miranda once apiece, and the Twins' midgame batting-practice display produced their fourth victory in the past five games, 8-2 over the White Sox.
The victory, in a game interrupted by rain for 35 minutes in the eighth inning, widened Minnesota's lead in the AL Central to 4½ games over Cleveland, its largest lead since June 5, exactly one month earlier.
The five home runs Tuesday, plus Byron Buxton's smash a day earlier, means the Twins have hit 308 home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field (or its previous name, U.S. Cellular Park), more than the franchise has hit anywhere outside the state of Minnesota. Technically, it's a tie with Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium at 308 homers in each park, but it's worth noting that the Royals' home stadium opened in 1973, 18 seasons before the White Sox's modern home.
"This always has been a good place to hit, especially when it starts to warm up and you're not fighting the early-season wind and cold," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who himself hit five home runs here during his playing career, more than any visiting park. "That's just the way it plays. It's the reality we live in."
So is the Twins' domination of the White Sox; Tuesday's win was their seventh in a row, dating back to last season, against the defending division champs.
And their latest conquest in Chicago's home park was mostly courtesy of youngsters who were not born yet when the place opened in 1991.
Josh Winder, activated in the late afternoon to replace injured starter Chris Archer, pitched five innings and notably did not allow a home run. The rookie righthander gave up seven hits over five innings, and stranded runners in scoring position in three of them.
"I was lucky to escape a couple of those by making some good pitches," said Winder, who was preparing to start for the Class AAA Saints on Monday when word came of his latest promotion. "I just always know there's a way out with runners on base — slowing the game down and making your pitches when you need to."
White Sox starter Michael Kopech fared much worse. The righthander, who had not allowed a run in two previous starts against the Twins, walked the bases full in the first inning but struck out Kirilloff to escape the threat. It would be the last time Kirilloff didn't reach base or score a run.
Max Kepler crushed a hanging curveball into the right field stands in the third inning to give the Twins an early lead. Kirilloff, now batting .307 with a .548 slugging percentage since being recalled from St. Paul almost three weeks ago, opened the fourth inning with a single. He scored ahead of Miranda when the rookie slugged a mid-plate slider about halfway up the bleachers in left-center, a 411-foot smash.
"The homers that we hit, I don't know if they're gone in every single ballpark, but they're gone in a lot of ballparks, I'll tell you that," Baldelli said. "I was really happy with a lot of those swings."
After Polanco, celebrating his 29th birthday, chipped in by pulling a first-pitch fastball over the Twins bullpen in left field, Kirilloff made it back-to-back blasts off Kopech. He went the opposite way, though, depositing a slider into the seats near Miranda's, a 417-foot homer. Two innings later against reliever Vince Velasquez, he went to left-center again, golfing a 3-1 slider into the front row.
It was the second two-homer game of Kirilloff's career, but somehow only the first two homers he's hit in Chicago.
"He's not an entirely predictable hitter, and that benefits him. Getting hits and spreading the ball around the field, those are real things," Baldelli said of the second-year outfielder. "He's a guy that can hit a pitch in an unusual area. We've seen him shoot balls down the left field line. We've seen him get to a pitch [Monday] and just hit a ground ball through the left side. He finds the outfield grass. That leads to wins."
And sometimes he finds the bleachers beyond the outfield grass, too.