MINNEAPOLIS – – Byron Buxton has his wits and swing in powerful dubbing. The Minnesota Twins follow his lead — and score in heaps.
Buxton had his second straight two-homer game and the Twins sent another quality opposing starting pitcher to an early out by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 on Friday night.
“You slow down the game and let it come back to you,” Buxton said, “and eventually the hits that you hit hard start falling and things like that start happening.”
Buxton has gone deep five times in the past three days and moved up to second place in the major leagues with 17 homers in just 43 games. Carlos Correa set up a two-run shot in the eighth inning for the Twins, who have had more than eight runs in five of their last seven games.
Randy Arozarena and Vidal Bruján hit the seventh consecutive homer for the Rays. Isaac Paredes went deep in the second game against Twins starter Devin Smeltzer (3-0), who conceded just one other hit spanning more than six innings and retiring 10 straight batters at one point.
Arozarena’s home run was an inside-the-park drive, the second of the season for the Rays after Kevin Kiermaier — who also accomplished the feat at Target Field last year. Bruján’s homer was the first of his career.
Drew Rasmussen (5-3) made his worst of 12 starts for Tampa Bay this year by hitting seven three-stroke shutout innings in his final round. He was burdened with seven carries on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, although three carries went unearned thanks to a fielding error in the fifth inning by first baseman Harold Ramírez.
Ray’s starters had allowed two runs or fewer in 20 of their last 26 games. The twins just managed to beat New York standouts Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes and Gerrit Cole earlier this week despite winning just one of those three games.
“Their lineup, one through nine, is really good. One through four or five is ridiculously good,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash.
The Twins sent 11 batsmen to the plate in the fifth inning, a rally that included RBI doubles from Jorge Polanco and Gary Sánchez and RBI singles from Nick Gordon and Luis Arraez.
“This offense is incredible to watch,” said Smeltzer. “It’s not that they’re just good ball players. They are electric.”
After a 10-7 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night and the disheartening pregame news that top contender Royce Lewis needed another ACL surgery, the Twins needed a pick-me-up.
Buxton’s first homer was undoubtedly a drive to the second deck. The second came from a half swing, no less, who managed to get into the bullpen behind left center after a “really good pitch” from Rasmussen – a low and away slider.
“Shoot, from the hill it looked like he hit him with one hand,” Rasmussen said.
This was Buxton’s eighth multi-homer game and he was the fourth player in franchise history to do so in consecutive games. Eddie Rosario (2019), Kirby Puckett (1987), Don Mincher (1963) and Harmon Killebrew (1959, with the Washington Senators) were the others.
“I’m sure next week or tomorrow he’ll do something that we’ve never seen him do,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “There’s something great right there.”
WE WANT RANDY!
The young, boisterous crowd in the left-hand stand spent much of the game taunting Arozarena, who was closest to their seats, by chanting his first name and interjecting a few “We want Randy!” verses The good-natured razzing continued when Arozarena batted in the seventh, right before his homer in the park.
Gordon, playing in midfield and Buxton’s turn as designated batsman, had a chance to catch him as he tried to camp under the high fly on the stretch, but the ball escaped his outstretched glove and rebounded towards the flatter Mid, as Arozarena sped around the bases.
“I think the fans love me, and I think it’s fun to have fun with them,” Arozarena said through a translator. “It helps me play a little bit better. It makes me happy.”
The twins hosted a Buxton giveaway for this game – not a jersey or bobblehead, but a 2022-friendly, non-fungible token. This was the first such promotion for the team to include the digital collectible, or NFT, and included images of Buxton’s signature and individual notation of game information and seat for each ticket holder.
Rays: More bad news came ahead of the game when Tommy John’s elbow surgery was ruled out for reliever Andrew Kittredge at the end of the season and, in a lesser blow, catcher Mike Zunino was put on the injured list with a shoulder infection. Both players were 2021 All-Stars.
Gemini: The rotation should get a big boost next week with the return of RHPs Sonny Gray (chest strain) and Joe Ryan (COVID-19), Baldelli said. Both pitchers are expected to start in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Rays: RHP Shane Baz will start the middle game of the series on his 2022 debut. He is on the 60-day injured list and is recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery on March 21.
Gemini: RHP Chi Chi González comes from Triple-A St. Paul and starts on Saturday. He pitched three innings in a fill-in start on June 3.