PHOENIX – Sorry, Buddy Kennedy, the Twins are leaving town. You’ll have to get to Cooperstown without them.
On Friday, the Arizona infielder made his major league debut, grounding a ball through the infield for his first big-league hit. On Saturday, the rookie — who attended the same New Jersey high school as Mike Trout — collected his first extra-base hit, a triple to center field, and scored the Diamondbacks’ lone run. But that was just warmup for the dream that Kennedy lived out on Sunday.
With more than a dozen friends and family members making a ruckus behind home plate and a teammate occupying every base, Kennedy turned on a high 3-0 fastball from Caleb Thielbar and launched it into the left-field seats, the last and most emphatic of Arizona’s four home runs in a 7-1 blowout at Chase Field.
Even more symbolic of the Twins’ day: Arizona manager Torey Lovullo had given Kennedy the take sign, but the rookie didn’t see it because he thought the count was 2-0.
“If I was watching the game on TV, I’d probably smile and be pretty happy for the guy. Getting a little curtain call, all that stuff,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “When it’s against you, it doesn’t feel real good.”
Living out a Disney movie, Kennedy pumped his fist as he rounded the bases and jumped out of the dugout to acknowledge chants of “Bud-dy, Bud-dy!” Living out a Hitchcock movie, the Twins packed up and left the desert with two ugly losses in the three-game series and a mere one-game lead in the AL Central with red-hot challenger Cleveland headed to Target Field.
Those Guardians, 15-4 over the past three weeks, just knocked the Dodgers out of first place in Los Angeles this weekend. Which made it more difficult for the Twins to declare themselves satisfied with a 3-3 road trip against two sub-.500 teams, the Mariners and Diamondbacks.
“Any time you go west and you go .500, I think that’s a successful West Coast trip,” Chris Archer said after allowing two runs in a four-inning start. “We had higher expectations, but going .500, we’re OK with that.”
That it was home runs that did all the damage Sunday was particularly surprising. Archer hadn’t allowed a home run in his last six starts, second-longest streak of his career, and Griffin Jax and Thielbar had each gone nine straight appearances without one, streaks stretching nearly a month.
Yet Christian Walker connected twice against Archer, a pair of solo shots that first tied the game and then gave Arizona the lead. Pavin Smith, batting just .188 entering the game, ambushed a Jax fastball and belted a 420-footer. And Kennedy, in just his third MLB game, took advantage of Thielbar’s control problems and pummeled a fastball into the seats.
“The only pitch I wish I could have back was the slider, [Walker’s] first home run. I didn’t execute it,” Archer said. “The second one, I executed [a 94-mph fastball] and he just beat me to the spot. Tip your cap.”
Archer was pulled after four innings because with an off day on Monday and only one inning of relief necessary the night before, Baldelli wanted to use the rested bullpen. It didn’t work.
“Caleb had a tough day as far as finding his release point,” Baldelli said of Thielbar, who surrendered three hits and two walks and recorded only two outs. “[Archer] could have gone out there and given us another inning, but [this looked like an] opportunity to use our guys. We just didn’t get the job done, but that’s going to happen.”
The Twins, just as they did Friday against Madison Bumgarner, scored in the first inning, then found it difficult to add on to their lead. This time, the silencer was righthander Merrill Kelly, who gave them far fewer opportunities than Bumgarner did. After Luis Arraez led off the game with a double and scored when Carlos Correa hit into a double play, the Twins never again advanced a runner to third base. Kelly allowed only five hits over seven innings.
“A tough way to end the road trip, one of our tougher games at the end,” Baldelli summed up. “That doesn’t feel good. But we’ll be fine.”