As fans tried out their best impressions of Rafiki lifting Simba with “Circle of Life” blaring on the Target Field loudspeakers during the “Simba Cam,” holding up their children during a between-inning gimmick, designated hitter Nelson Cruz couldn’t help but get in on the action.
He lifted Andrelton Simmons, referred to often by his longtime nickname “Simba,” between the armpits. He also grabbed Willians Astudillo, who held his arms up, and waved him around to the best of his ability. After he released Astudillo, Cruz jokingly reached for his back as if it was aching.
It’s easy to have fun when you’re winning, and the Twins appeared to be having plenty of it on Sunday, thrashing the Kansas City Royals 13-4 in the series finale at Target Field.
“I know what I’ve seen lately has been guys having fun. Guys truly enjoying being in the dugout, enjoying having a good time with their teammates. It does come with those good at-bats and guys swinging it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It all works together, and when it all works together like that … it’s just a tremendous vibe that permeates at that point.”
The Twins (10-16) had plenty of fun at the plate, scoring more than 10 runs for the second time in four games. In one of the other games, they put up nine runs.
During a seven-run third inning on Sunday, they made the Royals (16-10) pay for a pair of Hunter Dozier errors. The inning included Simmons’ first home run as a Twin and a three-run blast from Mitch Garver. By the time it was all said and done, the Twins had sent 11 men to the plate and put together their largest single inning since Aug. 20, 2019 against the Chicago White Sox.
“We had a lot of energy,” said Luis Arraez, who finished 3 for 4 with three runs scored. “We focused a lot and just want to hit that ball and that’s it. That’s what we’re thinking about today.”
The Twins added three more in the sixth and another three in the eighth on Alex Kirilloff’s fourth home run in three games as part of a 14-hit outburst. For Kirilloff, it was the rookie’s second four-RBI game of the series.
“We thought he could hit major-league pitching. He’s showing us what he can do,” Baldelli said. “It’s fun to watch good hitters, I’ll tell you that.”
Kirilloff was one of four Twins who finished with two hits in the game as part of the complete offensive performance. Everyone else had at least one hit, except Jake Cave, who still reached base twice.
While the offense was pounding Royals pitching, José Berríos was doing his best to try to stay on track. Right before his teammates put up the seven-spot, Berríos had struck out five straight batters. Though Dozier atoned for his two errors with a three-run bomb off Berríos in the fourth, the starter was able to lock back in an inning later, thanks to some help from pitching coach Wes Johnson, keeping the score at 7-4.
“I think in that fourth inning, I was trying to be too perfect, too fancy to make nasty pitches,” Berríos said. “But that’s what I’d been doing for the first three innings. That happened. We are human. After that, obviously, Wes came to me and said, ‘Get back to the way you started,’ and we did.”
The righty lasted six innings, letting out a big yell into his glove as he departed the mound to end his outing, helping send his team to a much-needed series win over the division-leading Royals.
“Big series for us bouncing back after Cleveland, after Pittsburgh. I think we’re all pretty happy winning that series,” Garver said. “Whether we recognize it or not, that was a really monumental series for our season so far.”