Byron Buxton could sense the mood was more upbeat amongst his teammates Wednesday morning, April 28, than it had been recently.
Manager Rocco Baldelli had held a team meeting the night before after the Minnesota Twins’ second loss to Cleveland, sharing some words of encouragement. The team’s confidence in itself hadn’t wavered, but by the time the Twins went to sleep on Tuesday night, they were the owners of the worst record in the major leagues.
They know they’re much better than that.
Buxton did everything in his power to build upon that upbeat mood, from a show of emotion to a 5 for 5 day that started with a leadoff home run. Buxton’s performance was part of a six home run day for the Twins, who beat Cleveland 10-2 on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field to snap a four-game losing streak.
“Just showing a little bit more aggressiveness, cockiness to get things started and keep those things going,” Buxton said. “Obviously, we started the game off really good and it’s just one of those things where you want to keep that momentum and stick with it. That’s what we did throughout the game and today was definitely a better time.”
Buxton fell a triple shy of the cycle in the win. Instead, he settled for a second single, in which he showed off his blazing speed to beat out a grounder, and a double in his final two at-bats of the day.
Baldelli moved Buxton up in the lineup on Wednesday against Cleveland (11-12) lefty Logan Allen, and Buxton responded by taking the second pitch of the game out to right field. Josh Donaldson followed with his second home run of the year and after Nelson Cruz walked, Jorge Polanco added the third home run of the inning, staking J.A. Happ to a four-run lead before he even stepped foot on the mound.
“That was huge. That got us going and got us up. Obviously, we’re fired up. We’re fighting man and it hasn’t been going our way,” Happ said. “But today was huge to jump out to that lead and get some quality energy in the dugout and guys are feeding off that.”
Happ, who took no-hitter into the eighth inning in his previous start, was sharp once again. He allowed just two runs in his seven innings pitched, lowering his earned-run average to 1.96.
He pitched with a comfortable lead all day, one the Twins (8-15) kept adding to throughout. After the three home run first inning, the Twins added three more longballs throughout the game — two from catcher Mitch Garver and one from Willians Astudillo.
For Garver, who had struck out in 11 of his past 16 at-bats, jumping on two fastballs, he said, was a “stepping stone to the next day.”
“I’m happy about it. I mean, I’m as happy as I can be. But I know I’m not there yet,” Garver said. “I don’t think that I should be totally content. I’m obviously pleased with the performance today, but I know that there’s still work to be done.”
The same goes for the team.
Wednesday was one game. But one game in which the Twins sure didn’t look like a team that was mired in a four-game losing streak amid a dreadful month of April. They sure didn’t play like that either.
For one day, the Twins looked much more like the Bomba Squad than the 2021 version of themselves, hitting home run after home run.
“That’s the way baseball works,” Baldelli said. It does become cyclical and the guys start having success and the guys behind them start having more success and there’s just a lot of good things going on.”
It was a step in the right direction, one that showed the flashes of the potential of how good the team can be. The next step is putting it together consistently to claw out of the hole they find themselves in.
“Obviously season ain’t went the way we wanted to but it’s up to us to come out here and keep competing and change things around and today was a start for us. We came out here and we did what we were supposed to do,” Buxton said. “Today was definitely a little bit more peppy in the clubhouse, a little bit more attitude and it was definitely, definitely fun to see.”