Jorge Polanco's three-run home run changes Twins' fortunes

·4 min read

Aug. 4—In the middle of the field, in the middle of the lineup, in the middle of nearly everything the Twins do, you can find Jorge Polanco.

He doesn't command the most attention, isn't the loudest voice in the clubhouse. But there he is, day by day, on the field more than any of his teammates, providing a consistent presence.

And there he was again on Tuesday in the middle of the Twins' comeback victory against the Reds, providing the big blast, a three-run shot, in the ninth inning as the Twins beat Cincinnati 7-5 in the series opener at Great American Ball Park.

"I went to the plate aggressive and then I kind of said to myself, 'You've got to slow it down. Make it simple,'" the second baseman said on Bally Sports North.

Polanco's home run, his second in as many games, came after a pair of walks to begin the inning and stayed just fair in right field.

It came on the eighth pitch of the at-bat after he had fouled off four straight pitches, including one off of his foot. The pain from that, he said, disappeared as he was running the bases.

It came after the Twins (45-62) had seen a prime opportunity slip away from them an inning before — Josh Donaldson, appearing in a game for the first time since experiencing hamstring tightness on Friday, grounded into an inning-ending double play after the Twins had loaded the bases — and after the Twins had seen two leads slip away earlier in the game.

And it came after a stellar month of July in which he slashed .327/.366/.548, and picked up some Player of the Month votes along the way.

"It was a great at-bat he put together against a guy (Heath Hembree) with good stuff," manager Rocco Baldelli said. " ... There are a lot of things you could say about those types of longer at-bats but I think it was Polo that kind of forced the issue and made the pitcher come to him and he didn't miss it."

While Polanco's clutch hit turned the Twins' fortunes around on Tuesday night, things still got tense in the bottom of the ninth. With Taylor Rogers hurt and Hansel Robles gone, Alexander Colomé slid into closing duties on Tuesday, giving up a single and a walk to bring the tying run to the plate for the Reds (56-51) before he retired the next three batters in order.

Colomé's scoreless inning — and a combined three scoreless frames from John Gant and Danny Coulombe — came after a start from Kenta Maeda in which he gave up five runs on three home runs.

In five July starts, Maeda was bit by the longball just twice. It was his best month of the season as last year's Cy Young Award runner-up started to resemble the guy the Twins knew he could be, finishing the month with a 2.15 earned-run average.

But his first start of August, though he struck out nine, didn't go quite as successfully. When the Twins scored a run in the top of the third inning, Maeda allowed back-to-back homers — and shortly after, back-to-back doubles — as the Reds took a 3-1 lead.

"I think I threw the ball too much on the plate for the homer, back to back home runs on first pitch," Maeda said. "I think I could have done things a little more carefully."

When they scored three more in the fifth inning — Maeda himself a part of that scoring, singling through the left side of the infield to begin the rally before Mitch Garver's three-run homer later in the frame — the Reds came charging back again off Maeda with a two-run home run.

That gave them a 5-4 lead that stuck. Until the ninth, that is, when it was Polanco again providing the late-game heroics.

"This is Major League Baseball and it's a very challenging deal out there but you're going to bet on a guy that's swinging the bat like that, playing like that, playing with confidence like he is," Baldelli said. " ... I think he's really feeling it."

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