KANSAS CITY, MO. – By the transitive property of baseball, Rod Carew has a decent shot at his eighth batting title.
Oh, Luis Arraez is doing the actual hitting, and plenty of it lately. But Carew is the angel on his shoulder, helping to make sure Arraez comes through when his team needs it — like, say, singling home two runs on Saturday and scoring three others to help Joe Ryan earn his fifth win in the Twins' 9-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
"Luis reminds me as much of myself as any hitter the Twins have ever had, so I always take extra interest in him," Carew said of the Twins utility player, whose current .324 average would rank seventh in the American League if he had a couple dozen more at-bats. "I can see myself — almost feel it — when he's a little out of sync."
Carew felt it on Friday, he said from his home in southern California. "I was watching and noticed Luis was more upright in his stance. I've worked with Luis enough as a young hitter to know that when he does that, he starts carrying the bat higher, and that's when he starts popping the ball in the air," the Hall of Fame hitter said. "When he's in his little crouch, he flattens the bat [and] hits with that flatter swing that produces line drives and base hits."
Carew contacted Dick Bremer with his observations, and the longtime Twins broadcaster promised to pass them along.
"I look at my phone and say, Dick's texting me? And I read the text and it said, 'Hey, you need to get a little bit more down and use your hands,' and I do it today," Arraez explained after the Twins' fifth victory in their past six games. "I used my hands and used my legs, too. That's why I got two base hits today."
They were straight out of Carew's batting-title seasons, actually — line drives the opposite way, almost served into left field.
"Rod Carew is the best. He knows so much about hitting," Arraez said. "He talks to me a lot about baseball, he tells me to enjoy the game. He tells me, 'don't be afraid to hit the ball to left field,' and that's what I did today."
He was far from the only one hitting, of course, for an offense that has scored 29 runs in its past three games. Gary Sanchez doubled home a run, Carlos Correa doubled home a pair; five different Twins drove runs home.
"There was almost so much going on, up and down the lineup from basically everyone, that you almost don't remember what anyone did," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "There were a lot of good at-bats, there were a lot of pitches laid off."
Speaking of pitches, Ryan provided plenty of great ones, allowing runners to reach base in four of his six innings but surrendering a run-scoring hit only once. He walked two hitters — the Twins had never before won a game in which he gave up more than one walk — but one of them had him feeling pretty good.
It came in the sixth inning, with the Twins leading 4-1, two Royals on base, and Carlos Santana, who has homered 31 times against Minnesota, representing the tying run. Ryan and Santana battled to 3-2, but Santana laid off a low fastball to load the bases. Caleb Thielbar relieved, and ended the threat by getting Kyle Isbel to loft a routine fly ball.
"Walking people can be good and bad. In certain situations it makes sense," Ryan said. "I mean, they're good hitters for a reason, so don't lay a cookie in there to someone when you don't have to. So yeah, I was happy with that, fine with that, knowing that I've got the bullpen behind me."
Ryan provided a scare, too, when he looked directly into the stadium lights and accidentally blinded himself temporarily. He signaled to catcher Ryan Jeffers not to throw the ball back yet, and Baldelli and athletic trainer Michael Salazar hustled out to see why.
"I was like, 'Dude, you don't need to come out here, I'm fine. All right? I'm trying to strike this guy out, let's go,' " Ryan said. "Whatever. It's nice that they care like that."
Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse contributed to this report.