StaTuesday: Kepler, Cruz pacing history-making Twins
Cruz reached 30 in spectacular fashion, hitting three home runs Saturday in a win over Kansas City Royals.
This is unfamiliar territory for Kepler, who set a career high with 20 home runs last season. He cruised past that number a month ago, hitting his 21st of the season on June 29.
Meanwhile, Cruz has been logging 30-homer seasons with regularity for a decade.
He broke out 10 years ago, hitting 33 home runs in 2009, and has now reached 30 in each of the past six seasons, a streak that includes three consecutive 40-homer seasons from 2014-16.
Another one appears to be in the cards. Hampered by a wrist injury in the first half, Cruz has come out swinging in the second.
He’s up to 14 homers in just 22 games since the All-Star break, which leads the majors over that span. Just two players — Cruz and Kepler, who has 10 in 23 games — have reached double digits since the break.
They’re the fourth and fifth Twins players in the last 10 seasons to hit 30 home runs, joining Brian Dozier (2016, 2017) and Josh Willingham (2012), and the first duo to do it since Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer (2009).
Eddie Rosario is just seven home runs away from joining them. They’d form just the fourth Twins trio to hit 30 home runs each, and the first since Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek (1987) led Minnesota to a championship.
With two months left to play they’ve both got plenty of time to spice up the Twins’ record books a little bit.
Harmon Killebrew is responsible for seven of the eight 40-homer seasons in Twins history, while Dozier (2016) was the first Twins player to hit 40 home runs since “Killer” did it for the final time in 1970.
Cruz and Kepler are on track to become the first Twins duo with 40-home runs each. It’s been done just 31 times, while the 2015 Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays were the last teams to feature two or more 40-home run hitters.
Killebrew flirted with 50 home runs throughout the ’60s, hitting no fewer than 44 home runs six times from 1961-69, coming up one short in 1964 and 1969.
That record (49) is probably just out of reach unless Cruz comes up with a few more monster games, but they’re on pace to shatter one Killebrew-era record in a matter of days.
The 1963 Twins, led by Killebrew, Bob Allison and Jimmie Hall, hit a team-record 225 home runs. The 2019 Twins are already at 219 and averaging nearly 2.5 per game since the break.
They’re now just 49 homers away from breaking the major-league record (267), set by the 2018 Yankees, and on pace to become the first 300-home run team in major-league history.