2019 Minnesota Twins
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2019 Minnesota Twins / Franchise: Minnesota Twins / BR Team Page
Managed by Rocco Baldelli
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2019 Minnesota Twins came into the season trying to redeem what was essentially a lost season in 2018, when they had failed to build on their reaching the 2017 Wild Card Game and finished well back of the division leaders, the Cleveland Indians. The poor performance had cost manager Paul Molitor his job, and he was replaced by Rocco Baldelli. The Twins had also made a few changes, with the retirement of local icon Joe Mauer. The two major additions were DH Nelson Cruz and 2B Jonathan Schoop.
The Twins got off to a very good start, with their hitting being particularly solid in the early going, with OF Eddie Rosario and Cruz the major weapons. On April 20th, they tied a team record set in 1963 when they hit 8 homers in the second game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. They had hit 3 in the first game, giving them a major league record 11 on the day, with Rosario hitting three, and Cruz, Schoop and C Mitch Garver hitting three each. They swept the two games, 6-5 and 16-7 and started being referred to as the "Bomba Squad", as their home run pace never abated. A week later, on April 26th, again against the Orioles but this time at home, they hit three consecutive 1st-inning homers off Alex Cobb, then added two more later in the game on their way to a 6-1 win. It was their third five-homer game of the season already (they had had none in 2018). That gave them 42 homers for the year, a pace well ahead of the franchise record - or even of the all-time record of 267 set by the New York Yankees the previous season.
On May 8th, following the completion of a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Twins had the best record in the majors at 23-12. In the series, played on the road, they outscored the Jays 20-1 as they completely dominated them both at the plate and on the mound. On May 23rd, they blasted 8 homers in a 16-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels, with Miguel Sano and Schoop hitting two apiece to lead the way; these were not cheap shots either, as one Schoop's blasts went 467 feet, and 8 of the 9 traveled over 400 feet. This matched the team record for most long balls in a game, and was already the 4th time they had hit six or more in a game. They hit three more the next day in an 11-4 win over the Chicago White Sox to give them 101 after 50 games. They were leading the majors in both homers and runs (300), and still ahead of the all-time record pace for homers. They were the second team in history to hit 100 or more homers in their first 50 games, following the 1999 Seattle Mariners who had 102. They had also won 10 of their last 11 games.
On June 11th, the Twins gave out tee-shirts inscribed "Bomba Squad" to fans at Target Field to mark their home run-hitting exploits, and that same night they set a new team record for homers before the All-Star break - still a month away at that point - by hitting #126 and 127 back-to-back in the 4th inning, by Jonathan Schoop and Jason Castro, to set a new team record. The 1964 edition of the team had hit 124 before the break. The major league record of 161 long balls before the break was now in sight, as well as the all-time single-season record. On July 5th, in a 15-6 win over the Texas Rangers, they hit four homers to bring their first-half total to 165, surpassing the mark of 161 set by the Yankees the year before. In that game they also equaled three club marks with 9 doubles and 13 extra-base hits in one game, and 6 extra-base hits in one inning. On July 25th, they became the first team to have 9 games of 5 or more homers in a season when they pulled the trick on the White Sox in a 10-3 win; the 1977 Boston Red Sox had done it 8 times. That latest barrage included the first three-homer game of Nelson Cruz's career, at age 39 and after 283 career homers. After the game, their season's total stood at 199 and the following day they became the fastest team to reach 200 homers when Cruz homered again. They needed just 103 games to reach the mark, shattering the previous record of 122 games by the 2005 Texas Rangers.
On August 9th, homers by Jason Castro and Eddie Rosario gave the Twins 226 on the year, breaking the franchise record. However, that night was not a good one, as they lost to the Cleveland Indians, 6-2, putting the two teams in a tie for first place for the first time that season. It was the fourth straight loss by the Twins, a first this year, and they had managed to squander what had been an 11 1/2 games lead on June 3rd. However, they managed to never fall out of the lead, being tied on two separate days before starting to put daylight between themselves and the Indians, reaching 3 1/2 games on August 25th. On August 28th, 2B Jonathan Schoop became the seventh Twins player to reach the 20-homer plateau, with a two-homer game in an 8-2 win over the White Sox. That tied a major league record shared with seven other teams, but with Jorge Polanco at 19 homers and Marwin Gonzalez at 15, it was almost a certainty that the Twins would be sole holder of the record by the end of the year, something which happened on August 31st when Polanco hit #20. Another record fell on August 29th, that one for most homers hit on the road as the Twins hit three more long balls against the Pale Hose; that gave them 139, eclipsing the mark of 138 set by the 2001 San Francisco Giants. On August 31st, in addition to Polanco's record-breaking blast, they claimed the all-time season record for most homers in a season with a month left to play when Mitch Garver connected in the 9th inning of a 10-7 loss to the Detroit Tigers for #268. Remarkably, the Twins had not been among the top ten home run-hitting teams in the majors since 1991, the year of their last World Series win.
On September 10th, the New York Yankees, who had been hitting homers at a dizzying pace since the start of August, caught the Twins with a six-homer barrage in a loss to the Tigers. Both teams now stood at 276 homers, and both had a good chance to break the 300 mark that had seemed completely unattainable before the start of the year. That same day, the Twins received some bad news as oft-injured CF Byron Buxton was placed on the 60-day injured list because of the need to undergo surgery for a labrum tear in his left shoulder. He hit .262 with 30 doubles and 10 homers in just 271 at-bats before the injury bug waylaid him once again. On September 17th, Miguel Sano became the 5th twins player to reach 30 homers, making them the first team with 5 30-home run hitters. Preceding him had been Cruz, Max Kepler, Rosario and Garver. On September 25th, they clinched their first division title since 2010 as a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers combined with an Indians loss lowered their magic number to zero. The following day, Schoop hit the team's 300th homer of the season, making them the first team to ever reach the mark, just ahead of the Yankees. The following day, they recorded their 100th win of the year with a 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in a rain-shortened game. It was only the second time in franchise history that they had reached the mark - the 1965 edition of the team had won 102 games - and they were the fourth major league team to win in triple-digits that year, an all-time record. They finished the year with 307 homers, one more than the Yankees ,for a new all-time major league record. The major contributors were Cruz with 41, followed by Kepler with 36, Sano with 34, Rosario with 32 and Garver with 31, with six more players in double figures. However, there was disappointment in the postseason as the Yankees swept them in three games in the Division Series.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Jake Odorizzi and Jorge Polanco
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Nelson Cruz (DH) and Mitch Garver (C)
- AL Manager of the Year Award: Rocco Baldelli
- Steve Gardner: "Minnesota Twins slug eight more home runs, on pace to shatter MLB single-season record", USA Today, May 23, 2019. 
- Do-Hyoung Park: "Despite youth, Twins are back in win-now mode: Under new manager Baldelli, return to postseason appears within reach", mlb.com, March 24, 2019. 
- Do-Hyoung Park: "Faith, Bombas and an AL Central title for Twins", mlb.com, September 26, 2019. 
- Noah Trister (Associated Press): "Twins came from out of nowhere to set home run record", USA Today, September 2, 2019.