One swing probably can't turn around a slump that has lasted for nearly a year. But it can certainly turn around a game.
Miguel Sano, mired in a slump so deep that he has been benched for much of May, sailed a 95-mile-per-hour fastball into the planters atop Target Field's right-field wall on Saturday, a three-run, eighth-inning blast that gave the Twins their first lead in 33 innings and ultimately delivered a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
The victory, which ended a five-game losing streak, materialized after the usual variety of painful missed opportunities for the Twins, and came via the least likely hero possible. Sano was batting .114 as he stepped in against Oakland reliever Jake Diekman with Jorge Polanco and newcomer Rob Refsnyder on base, and hadn't had an eight-inning hit all season.
That changed when Diekman, who watched Sano swing late on a fastball two pitches earlier, left another one on the outside corner. Sano reached for it and hit a fly ball that just kept carrying. When it dropped into the limestone planter, causing the crowd of 12,212 to erupt, Sano pumped his fist in celebration as he ran the bases.
The Twins' eighth-inning rally rescued what appeared to be another dull and listless loss for the Twins, who were only 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position until that inning. They opened the game with back-to-back hits, then didn't collect another until the sixth inning against Oakland starter Cole Irvin.
And they watched late-inning chances go for naught — until the eighth. When Jorge Polanco doubled to open the seventh inning and Refsnyder followed with a single, the Twins seemed primed to rally. But Sano lined out, Max Kepler flew out, and after Andrelton Simmons drew a walk, pinch-hitter Luis Arraez hit a foul popup that Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman somehow grabbed just as it was about to hit the tarp along the third-base line.
Jose Berrios pitched seven inning and allowed four runs, three of them coming on home runs by Matt Olson and Mark Canha. Alexander Colome pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Hansel Robles earned his first save as a Twin with a scoreless ninth, the final two outs coming with a go-ahead run standing on second base.