As Royce Lewis searches for answers, Twins offense solves Detroit with 12-3 rout

MINNEAPOLIS — Even with Royce Lewis out of action and seeking answers on staying healthy, the Minnesota Twins offense continues to fire on all cylinders.

Jose Miranda doubled three times as part of his career-high five hits, Ryan Jeffers homered and drove in four runs and the Twins toppled former teammate Kenta Maeda and the Detroit Tigers 12-3 in a rain-shortened contest on Thursday afternoon at Target Field.

Miranda raised his average to .312 for the Twins, who finished with 14 hits and scored eight runs with two outs in support of a fourth consecutive strong effort by starting pitcher Bailey Ober.

The win earned the Twins another series victory and improved them to 49-38.

“(The two-out hits are) difference-making,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s the difference between being in a game and having to battle through a game against a team for nine innings or separating. You don’t know when those two-out hits are coming. Our guys found a way to put the ball in play. Some of them used the whole field. Some of it was just touching the ball with people on base, and sometimes that’s all you really need to do.”

Dealing with another soft tissue injury after completing a rigorous leg program in the offseason, Lewis is contemplating what more he can do to stay healthy. A day after being placed on the injured list, Lewis acknowledged frustration about his injuries despite thorough offseason work and a daily routine he said involves six hours of pregame preparation.

Lewis, who missed 58 games earlier this season with a severe right quad strain, is out at least through the All-Star break. He said doctors believe his right adductor strain stems from overcompensating for some of the strength deficits caused by his quad injury.

Lewis started to experience discomfort in his adductor when the team was in Oakland (June 21-23) but said the tightness never amounted to much. But Lewis immediately felt his leg during Tuesday night’s two-run double.

The young slugger feels he’s already doing a good job of avoiding going all-out unless the situation merits it and said he was nowhere near top speed during Tuesday’s incident.

Despite his frustrations, Lewis is optimistic about his return, though he won’t offer any timeline.

“I think we did everything right,” Lewis said. “I guess I’m just going to have to be here eight or nine hours before the game. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. I’m sure people are going to blurt out ‘He’s not eating right. He’s not doing this.’ I’ve made significant changes. I’ve spent a lot of money on my body. I’ve been doing everything I possibly can. If I could think of something, I’d do it. If someone said, ‘Hey, if you smoke cigarettes like Babe Ruth, that’ll work,’ then I’ll do that too. I’ll do whatever. I’m open to anything.”

Lewis may be sidelined but the Twins offense still appears plenty capable. On Sunday, the group helped the team climb out of an early three-run deficit against Maeda, who departed for Detroit this offseason after spending four seasons with the Twins.

Miranda got the comeback rolling by extending his career-best hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff double in the second inning. Jeffers, whose passed ball on a third strike with two outs in the second inning opened the door for a two-run Tigers rally, doubled in Miranda to make it a 3-1 game. Rookie Brooks Lee’s sac fly later in the second got the Twins within a run.

The Twins didn’t let up.

They loaded the bases in the third inning and Max Kepler’s 12-hopper through a wide-open left side of the infield had enough on it to bring in two runs and give the Twins a lead they never relinquished. Manny Margot’s two-out infield single extended the lead to 5-3.

In the fourth, Miranda’s two-out, two-run double broke the game open and Jeffers followed with a back-breaking two-run homer off Maeda, who allowed nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.

“As a team, we’re clicking,” Miranda said. “Everyone is putting some good at-bats together. There’s not a single hitter you can say is an easy at-bat for our team. That’s a great thing to have.”

The tough at-bats kept coming as Jeffers singled in one in the sixth with another run scoring on a Detroit throwing error. Miranda then doubled in the seventh inning to drive in Kyle Farmer.

During his hitting streak, Miranda is 15-for-30 with 10 RBIs.

“He’s been giving us great at-bats, hitting balls on the screws, using the middle of the field, doing all the things you want to see, shortening up with two strikes and still finding a way to find the barrel,” Baldelli said. “He has been exactly where we want him to be.”

Though there was some consternation early Thursday, Ober found his groove. The right-hander caught too much of the plate with an 0-2 slider in the first inning and Detroit’s Colt Keith hit a solo homer to make it a 1-0 game. Ober also surrendered a two-out, two-run double in the second inning to Jake Rogers, a rally that was jumpstarted when Jeffers whiffed on strike three, which allowed batter Zack McKinstry to reach first base as the ball traveled to the backstop.

Relying heavily on a fastball-changeup combo, Ober kept attacking Tigers hitters. He worked around singles in the third and fourth innings and stranded two runners in the fifth. Ober followed with a perfect sixth inning, striking out two. Overall, he generated 22 swings-and-misses in 103 pitches and finished with eight strikeouts and only one earned run allowed.

In his last four starts, Ober is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.

“I’ve been feeling really good,” Ober said. “Right now I feel like I’m able to execute all four pitches really well and just mix speed types, pitch types, keep guys off balance and I’ve been able to do that pretty well the last three outings compared to maybe earlier in the year or maybe that middle stretch that I went through. Right now, just getting to two strikes, trying to put them away and get weak contact.”


Rookie pitcher David Festa packed his bags following Thursday’s victory. Multiple team sources confirmed Festa is returning to Triple-A St. Paul, though no corresponding move has been announced. Festa struggled in the middle innings of his start Wednesday, surrendering three home runs, including a grand slam. The Twins can use Festa’s spot to call up a relief pitcher and eventually activate Chris Paddack to fill the spot in the rotation on Monday. Paddack went on the IL retroactive to June 22 and is eligible to come off and pitch Monday in Chicago. … With Twins radio play-by-play man Kris Atteberry headed on vacation, Triple-A announcer Sean Arronson will fill in for the team’s final six games of the first half during its Chicago-San Francisco road trip. … Marney Gellner will join the Twins in Chicago as she fills in for three games on the TV side while Cory Provus takes a series off. … Rookie Brooks Lee’s parents finally arrived during the middle of Thursday’s game and met their son in the hallway outside the clubhouse. After producing an earlier sac fly, Lee singled and walked with his parents in the stands. The couple was delayed flying from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to Los Angeles on Wednesday night and then experienced additional delays along the way. Lee didn’t learn of his promotion to the majors until 2 p.m. Wednesday.

(Photo of Jose Miranda: Matt Blewett / USA Today)

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