MINNEAPOLIS — An apologetic Terry Ryan spoke prior to Friday’s game, speaking about the improvement needed as the Minnesota Twins finish off a fourth-straight dismal season which could force further changes to the organization. Minnesota’s general manager nearly pleaded for his team to show signs of life over the season’s final weeks.
The offense has had plenty of life in August, as Friday’s game exemplified.
Eduardo Escobar homered as part of a career-high, five-hit night, and Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe homered as the Twins put up 20 runs on the board against the Detroit Tigers on Friday in a 20-6 win.
Fighting for a playoff spot, Detroit is the team known for its offense. Minnesota looked like the dangerous team on Friday night, with 20 runs — the most any team has scored in a game in the majors this season — and a season-high 20 hits, including nine extra-base hits.
"That’s probably once in a season, maybe once in a couple seasons type game for us," said Plouffe, who had three hits and three RBI.
Scoring runs is becoming commonplace for the Twins, though. Minnesota has scored the most runs in baseball in the month of August, providing some optimism and energy in another lost season.
The Twins have scored 113 runs in 20 August games to lead the majors. They’ve hit 18 home runs in their last 12 games and are second in the American League with 25 home runs in August.
Twice on Friday, Minnesota batted around in an inning. After Detroit came within one at 6-5, the Twins followed with a nine-run sixth inning, which tied a season-high. Minnesota had four hits and six walks in the inning.
Jordan Schafer, who reached base five straight times, walked twice in the inning. Joe Mauer came to the plate twice with the bases loaded in the inning, driving in three runs on a single and walk. Escobar, who has 32 doubles this season to rank seventh in the AL, fell a double shy of the cycle.
"I don’t even know how to describe that ballgame," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A lot of runs scored and balls were flying everywhere. Early in the game, it’s hard to imagine that at one point I’m trying to decide (Miguel) Cabrera or (Victor) Martinez, who you want to face in the biggest situation of the night. We get a double play finally after we wild-pitched him over and then there you have it, a nine-run inning in the bottom of that one to kind of blow the game open."
Call it the Kennys Vargas effect. Say Mauer’s return has stabilized the Minnesota’s lineup. But few would have expected to call the Twins the highest-scoring team in baseball, even if it is just one calendar month.
"I think adding a little bit of youth to it," Gardenhire said of the of the offensive surge. "I think the guys in the middle, when they start hitting that’s when you start scoring runs. And right now Arcia’s starting to do it, Vargas has come in and got something done and we got Joe back. You know what? Those guys can make you look a little bit better offensively."
Settling the lineup, with Vargas in the heart of the order, has helped.
Danny Santana, who had three hits and four RBI on Friday, is another young player who has produced at the top of the lineup. Brian Dozier, hitting second, is the only player in the AL with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
"We added a big part of our lineup in Kennys," Plouffe said. "He’s done a good job right in the middle of our order. It’s good getting Joe back. I think we got our first four, five batters situated and that helps a lot."
Minnesota dipped into Double-A to call up the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Vargas at the start of August. The 24-year-old has settled into the cleanup spot and has hit .321 with four homers and 17 RBI. He doubled twice on Friday.
Mauer returned from the disabled on Aug. 11 and has hit .333 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBI hitting in front of Vargas. And Arcia, the spirited 23-year-old, has found his groove hitting behind Vargas.
Arcia, after his 14th home run of the season on Friday, has seven homers and 20 RBI in August. Over a seven-game hitting streak, Arcia has hit .320 with two doubles, four homers and 10 RBI.
"He’s locked in right now and he’s got that uppercut stroke right now that is connecting," Plouffe said. "It seemed like almost every game he’s hitting one. I think, again, he’s taking better at-bats and getting in hitter’s counts and when he gets his pitches, he’s not missing them. That’s what you’ve got to do."
And together, they’re giving Ryan and the Twins something positive to talk about.