The Twins were in a festive mood on Friday night. They honored Rod Carew — who had a press conference earlier Friday and also a bobblehead doll that was given away to the first 10,000 fans — by showing heart after being down 3-0 just two innings into the game. They also honored his offensive pedigree by pounding out 17 hits. The offense also provided some in-game fireworks prior to the customary postgame ones that happen every Friday at Target Field.

What it all added up to was 10 unanswered runs — including seven over the final three innings — in a 10-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Target Field on Friday night. The Twins have beaten the Diamondbacks three straight times dating back to 2014 — some of the last games current Arizona bench coach Ron Gardenhire managed in Minnesota — and did so despite digging an early hole.

“It was an extremely, extremely fun baseball game,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Ervin had a little rough start there, and you could tell the frustration (he was feeling). I’m not sure what his highest average velocity is for a single game, but he ramped it up there after the first couple innings. He settled in there and did a nice job for us and gave us an opportunity to come back.”  

Front and center for the Twins in the win was Byron Buxton, who came up a single shy of hitting for the cycle, and was denied that chance in the seventh inning when his line drive went right into the teeth of the Diamondbacks defensive shift, and was snared by second baseman Daniel Descalso. Buxton was also just two hitters away when Eddie Rosario made the final out of the eighth inning, leaving Buxton to settle for his fifth three-hit game of the season.

One of those hits was undoubtedly the most exciting of the game, and it brought the Twins back to even at three runs apiece. Just two innings after tripling into the left-center gap, Buxton again terrorized his center field counterpart A.J. Pollock by driving the ball deep to the other gap against Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley, who came into the game with an ERA below 3.00. Pollock, who wasn’t going to be playing the field in the original lineup until J.D. Martinez was scratched with an illness, overran the carom off the wall in right-center, and that was all Buxton needed to motor around for the second inside-the-park home run of his career.

The other came last October in the season finale against the White Sox last year.

“The inside-the-park homer is as exciting of a play as our game can offer,” Molitor said. “And when you have one of the fastest players in the game do it, it was really a boost for us — especially Buck having the night he did. A lot of guys contributed.”

“About two steps around first base,” Buxton said when asked when he decided he was going for the inside-the-park home run. “Once I saw the ball had kicked away (from Pollock), I put my head down and ran. It was amazing, especially when the fans get into it.”

Ervin Santana completed six innings and in doing so was credited with a quality start, but it was an inauspicious beginning for the veteran righty, as he allowed a pair of runs in the first inning and another in the second. David Peralta — who has historically fared very well against Santana — opened things up with a single. He moved to second on a slow roller to Miguel Sano and came around to score on a Jake Lamb single.

Lamb moved to second on an errant throw from Buxton and scored when Paul Goldschmidt poked a 2-1 pitch into right for a single. Peralta got Santana again in the second, when the left fielder drove a first-pitch fastball off the top of the fence and into the stands for a home run to give the Diamondbacks a 3-0 lead.

That was the end of the scoring for the Diamondbacks however, as Santana buckled down to retire 12-of-14 batters — including 10 in a row at one point — before running into a bit of trouble in the seventh.

“I just threw more inside,” Santana said of his in-game adjustments that allowed him to clamp down on the Diamondbacks after the second inning. “I got more effective with my offspeed after that. I felt great. The ball was coming out very good. The home run (to Peralta) was a good pitch. He’s a good hitter. He’s hot right now.”

With the Twins leading just 4-3 and the game still very much in doubt, Santana started the seventh but allowed a walk to Gregor Blanco and a single to Peralta. Molitor went to the pen to get Trevor Hildenberger, and on two pitches induced a 1-6-3 double play. Molitor then got Taylor Rogers, who retired Lamb on a foul out to Jason Castro to end the inning, and the final Diamondbacks threat of the night.

Any further threat would have been for naught either way, as the Twins pushed across four runs in their half of the seventh. After scoring single runs in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings — including a Max Kepler home run in the third — the Twins turned up the heat after the stretch. Joe Mauer drilled a single to left off reliever Jorge De La Rosa, and manager Torey Lovullo went to his bullpen to get David Hernandez.

Sano obliterated the first pitch he saw from Hernandez into the upper tank in left-center, and the Twins gained a little breathing room at 6-3. Rosario followed with a single, and Eduardo Escobar got some retribution after a couple ugly strikeouts earlier in the night as he homered to right to give the Twins an 8-3 lead.

“I know he’s been working hard, just trying to stay on the ball. When he’s getting walks, I know he’s getting close,” Molitor said of his slumping slugger breaking out. Sano came into the game hitting just .241/.305/.389 in August and only .229/.303/.394 since the All-Star break. “Tonight we saw the explosion.”

The Twins tacked on a pair of home runs in the eighth as well against Diamondbacks reliever Silvino Brach. Brian Dozier led the inning off with a homer on a 2-0 pitch, and in the process tied Michael Cuddyer for 10th on the team’s all-time list with 141 long balls. With Cuddyer in the stadium on the eve of him being elected into the club’s Hall of Fame, no less.

Sano also added another home run to left field to cap the scoring for the Twins in the eighth, though Rosario grounded out to first to end the threat.

The threat of Buxton hitting for the cycle, that is.

“They said ‘You’re gonna come up again,’” Buxton said of his teammates trying to get him that final chance at the cycle in the ninth inning. “So I just sat by the bat rack and tried to relax myself and calm down a little bit.”

Notes and Quotes

  • The Twins have won nine of their last 12 games.
  • Six home runs matched the team’s season high (May 2 against Oakland).
  • The back-and-forth battle for the team’s lead in slugging percentage continued, with Sano (.517) retaking the lead from Rosario (.506) thanks to his two late home runs. Prior to that, Sano was in danger of seeing his mark drop below .500 for the first time since the last day of last season.
  • Castro was the only Twins player without a hit. Escobar and Dozier were the only starters with just one.
  • Every Twins hitter saw at least 15 pitches, a sentiment not wasted on Molitor after the game, as he noted the offense made Godley, a very good pitcher, work hard.
  • Godley fanned 10 batters in 5.1 innings but also allowed nine hits. His tremendous curveball came as advertised however, as he induced 14 swinging strikes on the night — including seven on the curve.   
  • Santana on what the offensive production did for him on the mound: “It gave me more energy to try get everyone out. The adrenaline that it brought to the game and all that, it was great.”
  • Santana on his team picking him up: “It means a lot. It means we believe in ourselves and won’t give up. We fight until the last out.”  

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