It didn’t take long for Brian Dozier to set the tone on Tuesday night. It rarely does when you’re the leadoff hitter.
But when Dozier poked the third pitch he saw from Padres starter Travis Wood — a 2-0, two-seam fastball — into the seats in right field, it set off a chain of events that led to yet another historic night at Target Field in a 16-0 win over San Diego.
Dozier’s home run was the only run the Twins scored in the first, but it was far from the last, as the team homered in each of the first seven innings of the game on the way to a blowout victory. In doing so, the Twins became — at least according to Elias Sports Bureau — the first team in MLB history to homer in each of the first seven innings of a game.
Regardless of the offensive barrage from the Twins — which not only included a Target Field-record seven home runs but 10 extra-base hits and 18 hits altogether — starter Kyle Gibson was again on his game, as he has been ever since taking the ball on July 22 against the Detroit Tigers. Since that start, Gibson has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each subsequent outing — a span of nine starts which has seen his ERA drop from a cringe-worthy 6.29 to a season-low 4.97 after Tuesday night.
After posting a 3.90 ERA in August, September has been ever better for Gibson, as he has allowed just two earned runs this month for a 0.95 ERA with 11 strikeouts, just one walk and perhaps just as importantly, zero home runs.
“It felt good,” Gibson said. “We all had a pretty good plan going into today. Castro called a great game, and the offense got on board early again and it had a similar feeling to Kansas City a couple weeks ago.”
Gibson is, of course, referring to the last time he was on the mound at Target Field, when the Twins won 17-0 over the Royals. To do some math that even a journalist is capable of, Gibson’s offense has scored 33 runs over his past two starts.
“We had a game like this last homestand where we were able to pile up runs and guys were able to keep scoring,” Manager Paul Molitor said, again referring to the win over the Royals early in the month. “I think tonight was everything you could ask for to open up a homestand. We got a solid start; Gibby keeps his roll going.”
First-pitch strikes were again key for Gibson, as he had started 16 of the 21 batters he faced with a strike. Gibson also got nine swinging strikes, which on an ordinary workload wouldn’t stand out much, but the tall righty threw just 74 pitches on the night, as Molitor opted to go to a bullpen that now runs 14 deep with the addition of lefty Gabriel Moya, whose contract was purchased from Double-A Chattanooga prior to the game.
Moya closed things out for the Twins with a scoreless ninth, including a strikeout and a walk, while Glen Perkins and Michael Tonkin each tossed a scoreless frame in relief of Gibson.
Offensively for the Twins, the game was a bloodbath. Every time the Padres gave the Twins an opportunity — intentionally or otherwise — it was capitalized upon. That’s the expectation of good teams, and with a 75-69 record with 18 games left, it’s become increasingly clear this is a damn good Twins team.
In the second inning, Wood thought he had Twins catcher Jason Castro struck out, but didn’t get the call from home plate umpire Lance Barrett. Castro finished the plate appearance by serving an RBI single into right, doubling the Twins lead to 2-0 with one out. Five more runs came in before Wood mercifully got out of the second, down 7-0.
The Twins showed no mercy in the third, and again it was Castro playing the role of the villain. Castro hit a high foul fly into the Bermuda Triangle area behind third base, and neither third baseman Cory Spangenberg, nor left fielder Matt Szczur nor even shortstop Erick Aybar could make a play.
On the very next pitch, Castro found the flower pots with a fence-scraping home run to left, closing the door on a disastrous start for Wood and giving the Twins a 9-0 lead.
Flamethrowing righty Jose Valdez relieved Wood, and while he fared better, also gave up a pair of home runs and three earned runs over his 2.2 innings of relief. Wood’s start gave him a season ERA of 6.70 — just slightly better than the 7.31 mark Valdez emerged with.
Valdez gave up the fourth-inning home run to Eddie Rosario — a two-run shot to the visiting bullpen in left-center to score Byron Buxton, who had doubled to the other gap. Despite the hand pain he’s played with since returning, Buxton impressively stayed on a tough 89-mph slider from Valdez on an 0-2 count to hit the double, and probably could have legged out a triple if the situation dictated going for it.
With a 9-0 lead, that was not the case.
The fifth-inning home run went to Castro, his second of the game for his fourth career multi-homer game and his first since his All-Star season of 2013. In the sixth, Eduardo Escobar continued to add to his career-high total in home runs with his 18th of the season to greet reliever Cory Mazzoni.
The final home run was without a doubt the most impressive, as Kennys Vargas — who entered the game for Joe Mauer in the top of the seventh — drilled an absolute bomb into the right-center stands off the SuperAmerica sign. The three-run home run capped the scoring for the night, and gave Vargas 11 for the season in only 239 plate appearances.
The home runs weren’t the only highlight of the evening, as Niko Goodrum batted for Polanco in the seventh inning and legged out an infield hit for his first big-league knock. The Twins faithful — all 28,000-plus — rewarded Goodrum with a standing ovation as the Padres made their final pitching change of the evening.
Notes and Quotes
- The Los Angeles Angels lost 1-0 to the Houston Astros, giving the Twins a two-game lead for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
- The win improved the Twins to 12-7 in Interleague play this season and 14-5 all-time against the Padres.
- The shutout was the Twins’ 11th of the season — their most since having 12 in 2015 per the game notes.
- Dozier’s leadoff home run was his eighth of the season, and his 30th home run overall. That marked his second season in a row with 30-plus home runs, putting him in rare company in Twins history. Only Dozier, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Gary Gaetti and Justin Morneau have hit 30 home runs in consecutive seasons.
- Molitor on Dozier as the spark plug to the night: “Brian kind of set the tone. He doesn’t go oppo too often, but when he does….he smoked that ball to get us going.”
- Molitor on the offense: “I thought Joe’s two-out single to spread the lead from three to five and Polanco’s homer gave us some breathing room to eventually to get almost everyone in the game, and getting some guys out of the bullpen, including Gabriel. It was good to see him pitching.”