McFeely: Homers keep coming, but is it the Twins or is it that the Twins are playing the Orioles?
There was a time when Minnesota Twins hitters complained that Target Field was a place where home runs went to die. It was bad enough in the ballpark's first couple of years in 2010-11 that several people offered a conspiracy theory that Target Field's concrete needed to cure before baseball's would begin flying over the fences.
Nobody's talking about concrete these days in downtown Minneapolis.
The Twins are looking like the 1927 Yankees, the 1961 Yankees, the 2012 Yankees, the 2017 Yankees and the 2018 Yankees all rolled into one.
Two more balls left the yard off Minnesota bats Sunday, April 28 -- a blast to right field by Max Kepler on the first pitch a Twins' batter saw and another to left by Byron Buxton in the third inning -- and the home team won another game. This time it was 4-1 over the Baltimore Orioles as the Twins improved to 16-9, the second-best record in baseball.
"No matter what we're doing -- pitching, hitting, fielding -- the confidence is there and you can see it," said Buxton, whose rocket off Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy was his first of the season. "It's going to be there all year. We have a great group. Great team chemistry and with great chemistry comes great play."
The two home runs gave Minnesota 49 for the season. It's by far the most homers the Twins have hit before May 1 in club history, putting them on pace to hit 318 for the season.
That is a gargantuan number and would shatter the Major League Baseball record of 267 set by the New York Yankees last year.
Except that the Twins aren't alone in knocking the ball out of the park. Their total ranks only third in the big leagues, behind Seattle's 59 and Milwaukee's 54. Seven teams have already hit more than 40 homers.
In other words, it ain't the concrete at Target Field.
The bigger question for the Twins might be whether their lineup is this powerful or whether it's living off a horrific Orioles team that lost 114 games last season and might looking at triple-digit losses again. The Twins hit 12 home runs in the weekend's three-game series, including five Friday night. The Twins hit 23 homers in their six games against the Orioles this season.
That is feasting on the weakling.
"When guys are having at-bats like they are having, you just try to ride it out as long as you can," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
The Twins added power in the offseason, acquiring veteran slugger Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron. Minnesota hit a bunch of homers in Florida during spring training, but nobody expected this outburst of power.
"You can't expect to swing the bats like we have to this point. There's no way you can see this coming," Baldelli said. "But we knew we had some guys that were those types of hitters. If you look at our lineup, we have some guys who are plenty strong, have good at-bats and when they hit a ball hard it has a chance to go out of the park."
The sweet-swinging Eddie Rosario leads the team with 11 home runs. Kepler is next with seven, looking comfortable in the leadoff spot. The lefty drilled Bundy's first pitch of the game into the right-field seats. It was once the left-handed batters in Minnesota's lineup who complained most loudly about how difficult it was to hit home runs at Target Field.
"He has good at-bats," Baldelli said, repeating his mantra. "That's just what he is as a hitter, even in the past. He has very, very good at-bats. ... He just seems comfortable with what he's doing."
At this pace, the Twins will crush the club record for homers in a season. That mark of 225 was set by the 1963 team, which played at Metropolitan Stadium. It included Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Earl Battey, Don Mincher and rookie Jimmie Hall, who hit 33 home runs even though he didn't become the regular center fielder until June. It was the same core of players who led the Twins to the World Series in 1965.
That's a big reach. It's not yet May and we'll learn much more in the next week. Minnesota's next two series are against Houston and the Yankees, who are most decidedly not the Orioles.
At least we know one excuse has been removed if the Twins' power numbers drop off.
They can't blame it on the concrete.
Then again, they also don't play the Orioles any more. We'll see how much games against Baltimore factored into this unprecedented power show.