On a day when the Minnesota Twins learned that star pitcher Michael Pineda had been suspended for 60 games, Mitch Garver provided some good feelings with two home runs in Minnesota’s 5-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. His first one, which came in the first inning, broke Earl Battey’s record for home runs in a season that had stood since 1963.
His second one got a curtain call.
“That was cool,” said Garver. “I mean, I remember standing here a few weeks ago saying that was the coolest thing that I’d done, against Kansas City, and now I’m here doing the same thing. Given the situation — playoff push, September baseball, tight ballgame — I mean, that’s got to be one of the biggest.”
With the Twins tied 2-2 in the seventh inning, Mitch Garver hit a three-run blast off Cleveland reliever Nick Goody, his 28th of the season.
The top of the seventh inning had started with Nelson Cruz being ejected for arguing about a strike three call in C.J. Cron in the bottom of the sixth, which the Fox Sports North broadcast showed was clearly a ball. The Twins half of the inning began with Willians Astudillo singling off of Adam Cimber and Jonathan Schoop tying the game with a triple. Terry Francona went out to the mound and replaced Cimber with Oliver Perez, who walked Kepler. Then Goody was brought in to replace Perez, who proceeded to give up the home run to the next batter he faced, Garver.
“It’s gotten to the point now where we expect big things out of him and he expects big things out of himself,” said Jake Odorizzi, Saturday’s starter. “When you have that driving force and the confidence that he’s working with, it’s nice to have, especially when he’s the guy behind the plate. Get that production out of a catcher, that’s huge. A lot of teams don’t have that.”
“I love it. I love it,” said Garver. “That’s one of my favorite things to do. There is a lot of emotion in this game, with us as a team and as players, and a lot of the time you don’t get to show it the way you really want to, or you don’t get to say the things you want to or express your emotions the way you want to. But in those situations like that, I think it’s only proper to do that.”
Inevitably there’s a lot of emotion in a game like this, two teams competing for a division title in September, but especially on a day when the team learned their best pitcher, Pineda, had been suspended for the rest of the year. He addressed the team in a closed door meeting before the game, and it was clear from the emotion in the clubhouse that the team took the news pretty hard.
“I’d prefer for the specifics of the meeting to probably stay private,” said Rocco Baldelli, “but it was a very meaningful and emotional talk, and a few people spoke, and it was good. It was a good meeting for everybody in there in a lot of different ways.”
“Obviously, disappointment. Little bit of sadness,” said Garver. “We had a lot of sympathy for Big Mike. We love that guy; he’s been huge for this team, as a player, as a mentor, as a person, you know? And getting into the game, all we had to do was compete, and Odo started us off with three punchouts in the first and really just kind of kick-started the whole game. That was a great start.”
Odorizzi ended up striking out 10 batters, although he couldn’t get out of the sixth inning.
Ultimately, Garver’s homers are two of 274 bombas in the Twins’ record-breaking season. These two felt bigger, however, not only because they helped Minnesota beat Cleveland, but because they provided a lift for a team that needed one after Pineda’s suspension earlier in the day.