Dust Settles but Bombas Never Will for 2019 Twins
Image courtesy of © Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY SportsOn May 24 the Twins had just wrapped up a victory against the Chicago White Sox. They were 34-16 through their first 50 games and the club had swatted 101 homers. Dubbed “#SotaPop” by Twins Daily’s own Nick Nelson a month earlier, Eddie Rosario dropped a term that would stick the rest of the way. He suggested “When you’re hitting a lot of bombas, everybody’s hitting bombas, everybody’s happy.” From that point forward the “Bomba Squad” was born.
Rosario’s comments came just a day after Minnesota had launched eight dingers for the second time on the season. Fast forward a few weeks and Byron Buxton had just launched the 4th greatest homer of the season in terms of WPA. It was his blast on June 5th though that busted out the tape measure. 454 feet against the rival Cleveland Indians, the shot was described as launched while putting the league on notice. Anyone in this lineup could take you out, and of the no-doubter variety.
As the month of June wore on, it became time that the authorities take notice. All season long the Minnesota Twins did an exceptional job of marketing this team. Facing attendance woes from a year prior, they found ways to funnel fans into Target Field. Keeping with that theme in relation to the All-Star Game, the Twins creatively marketed the “Bomba Ballot.” Baldelli’s Bangers ended up meeting the Minneapolis Bomb Squad, and one group was preventing crime while the other was committing it.
Heading into the All Star Break the Twins surpassed the 2018 New York Yankees mark for most home runs prior to the time off. They swatted four dingers against the Texas Rangers on July 5 at Target Field giving them 162 on the year (they’d add one more the next day). That game was a blowout 15-6 win that saw catcher Mitch Garver continue his tear.
You can’t look back to July without thinking about the epic affair Minnesota and New York provided over the course of 10 innings. The two clubs combined for 26 run on 35 hits, and while the pitching got beat around, it was the bats that showed off. These two squads have been running away from the pack with the longball all year, and that was one of the most exciting games Minnesota has played this season. Unfortunately, it ended with an Aaron Hicks diving grab in the gap, but Miguel Sano put his stamp on the action by leaving the park twice on the evening.
When the calendar turned to August the Indians began to believe they had a chance in the AL Central division. With the division lead shrinking by the day the month needed to get off to a good start. The lineup had lost some key pieces due to injury, some of the pitching performances weren’t what they were early on, and there was too much runway left to sit back and rest. On a day in which he was getting a break, Miguel Sano became a hero. Pinch hitting for Ehire Adrianza in the 9th inning of a tie game against the Atlanta Braves, he stepped in got a second pitch, and sent everybody home.
Before the month would end the Twins walloped their greatest home run of the season. Highlighted as the greatest WPA inducing blast of 2019 in Cooper’s piece last month, Marwin Gonzalez got all of a ball from Josh Hader to put the Twins ahead while trailing in the 8th inning. Both Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz had looked like slam dunk fits for this club coming into free agency, and this was just another moment to highlight how right the front office got it.
Minnesota began the month of September with a 4.5 game lead on the Cleveland Indians. Despite needing to provide some calm myself, and Indians personality Jensen Lewis providing fuel for the fire, the Twins were going to wrap the Central up. Holding serve the first two weeks was a must, and no serve was bigger than the Nelson Cruz bomba against the Washington Nationals. Statcast measured the blast at just 460 feet but crushing it out to bystanders at Minnie and Paul’s in dead center, there’s zero doubt the distance was significantly closer to the 500 ft mark.
The Twins went into Cleveland and hung a doubleheader sweep on the Indians in what amounted to their final division opportunity of the season. Sending a shot out to left field off Nick Goody, Minnesota had all the breathing room they’d need. Once again, the Twins polarizing third basemen had come up in a spot fitting for a star.
Just a couple of days later Sano went yard again, this time registering the longest homer of the season (per Statcast) tracked at 482 ft. Tape measure shots have become something of the norm for Miguel, but this one was something else. As Minnesota was in the swing of a 13-game stretch against the bottom of the division to close out the year, they were going to make sure there was no doubt about who the cream of the crop was.
Another double dinger day was on tap for Sano against the Royals to close out the home slate at Target Field. As impressive as his efforts were in a 12-8 victory against Kansas City, it was his friend an elder statesmen that stole the show. Much like Jim Thome and his pursuit of 600 the last time Minnesota won the division (though the record breaker came in the following season), Nelson Cruz punctuated a career year with blast number 40. That longball was also the 400th of his career and firmly entrenched him as one of the greatest power hitters to ever play the game.
Now the division has been in hand for nearly a week but coming off the official clinch on September 25 (and Baldelli’s birthday), the Twins trotted out their hangover lineup on Thursday against Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers. Minnesota was getting their game in hand over the Yankees in, and knotted at 299 homers could be the first to reach 300. Jonathan Schoop hit a wall scraper for a two-run shot to reach Sparta and history was made. Willians Astudillo tacked on another before the day was over, and now the Twins will look to hold serve before facing a Yankees team in a much more desirable set of circumstances.
There are just three games left in the 2019 regular season. Minnesota can tie the all-time franchise wins record. They could surpass a few more benchmarks. Heck, they could even hang a final sweep on the board against the Kansas City Royals. No matter what they do though, this will have been the year of #SotaPop turned into the Bomba Squad and we lived through big flies that never seemed like they’d come down.
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