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Bats come to life as Twins dominate Cleveland to open weekend series

The emotion was the most gripping thing about Royce Lewis’ first career home run. But not just Lewis’s.

On Friday, the Twins’ top prospect practically jumped on Bryan Shaw’s mid-plate cutter and threw him five rows deep into the left-field bleachers, a fifth-inning grand slam that capped the biggest inning of the Twins at Target Field in nearly five years, and ultimately their 12-8 win over the Guardians.

Lewis circled the bases as the announced crowd of 18,711 roared, then accepted congratulations from teammates Nick Gordon, Ryan Jeffers and Gio Urshela, who had crossed home plate ahead of him. But it was when he reached the dugout that it became apparent just how joyous the moment was for his teammates, and especially for the Twins prospects who had climbed their way to Target Field with him.

Carlos Correa, whose finger injury sparked the start of Lewis’s major league career exactly a week earlier, waited on the top step to greet him. Lewis ran the gauntlet of high-fives in the dugout, then did a short celebratory dance with Alex Kirilloff. He turned and found Jeffers ready with a congratulatory bear hug. Same with Gordon, another former first-round pick.

Lewis’ home run, the highlight of the Twins’ nine-run inning, was one of four they beat to end their three-game losing streak, but it seemed like the biggest one. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft made a solid first impression, deftly replacing Correa at shortstop while peppering opposing pitchers with 10 hits in a week, a .320 batting average welcome to the majors.

And now he also shows his power. Lewis started the big inning with a double to center field, scored on Max Kepler’s single and headed home with the bases loaded a few batters later. By smashing Shaw’s pitch – making him the 10th Twin to reach base in an 11-batting streak – Lewis became the first Twin to hit a Grand Slam on his first career homer since Danny Valencia vs. Zack Greinke in Kansas. City on July 26, 2010. .

Byron Buxton also started the game with a home run, ending the Twins’ 37-inning streak without one. Jorge Polanco followed two batters later, and Gary Sanchez, who hadn’t homered since April 10, preceded Lewis’ homer with his own shot to center field, a three-point shot, to welcome Shaw in the game.

The Guardians right-hander faced five relief hitters from Aaron Civale and all of them reached base and scored, taking his ERA from 1.69 to 5.91 in a horrific outing. Cleveland interim manager Carl Willis, replacing Terry Francona who has COVID this weekend, called in Eli Morgan to end the carnage, but only after the Twins posted their first nine-run run at Target Field since that Bartolo Colon launched the Twins to victory against Arizona on August 20, 2017.

Minnesota’s last nine-run inning came almost exactly a year earlier and against the same opponent – in Cleveland on May 21, 2021.

The Guardians fought back, with Sonny Gray’s Austin Hedges homer, Oscar Mercado doing the same against Griffin Jax and Anders Gimenez hitting a two-run homer in the ninth inning against Emilio Pagan. But the relief was palpable at Target Field, where the Twins have scored just three total runs in their previous three games, a sweep by the Astros.

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