By Brian Hall
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MINNEAPOLIS _ After the ball cleared the fence, Miguel Sano simply put his head down and trotted around the bases as the fans who’ve long waited for his heralded arrival cheered loudly.
In the dugout, Sano’s teammates prepared to give the 22-year-old slugger the silent treatment. For Sano, it was business as usual.
Sano demonstrated his power in hitting his first major league homer and then showed some patience at the plate by drawing a bases-loaded walk Tuesday night as the Minnesota Twins cruised to an 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“I know when I hit the ball,” Sano said of his understated home run celebration. “When I hit the ball hard, I know it’s gone.”
Sano’s towering two-run homer in the first inning backed Kyle Gibson (7-6), who allowed a two-run homer to J.J. Hardy but held Baltimore to six hits in six innings to win his third straight start.
Known for his potent bat, Sano had two hits and has hit safely in each of his first six games since being promoted from Double-A.
“I don’t feel like any pressure here,” Sano said. “The same baseball and when I go hit, I try to hit the ball the same way I try to hit. I don’t try to do too much because if I try to do too much, I can pull the ball or something like that, a groundball, a lot of strikeouts. Otherwise, I try to hit the ball and put in play.”
The 6-foot-4, 262-pounder’s route to the majors was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2014, but he was promoted to provide some pop for a slumping offence when he was recalled from Double-A Chattanooga last week. He’s hit the ball hard in his limited time and shown a keen eye at the plate, as well, drawing four walks. He’s hitting .450 in his first six games.
In his first game in the cleanup spot, Sano wasted no time rewarding manager Paul Molitor’s trust by driving a ball into the left field stands to cap a three-run first inning. His bases-loaded walk capped a four-run fourth.
“I think we all were kind of waiting to see the power, other than just the really hard line drives that we’ve seen him hit, and he got a hold of one,” Molitor said. “That was good to see. But I think we’ve been encouraged by the walks he’s been taking…He’s shown a nice combination of being aggressive and yet working the count.”
Recently awarded a permanent spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation with Bud Norris being shifted to the bullpen, Kevin Gausman couldn’t get out of the fourth inning in his third start of the season. Gausman (1-1) allowed eight runs _ seven earned _ on seven hits and threw two wild pitches in just 3 2-3 innings.
He was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.
“So many times people just think command shows up in walk totals,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “He was wild in the strike zone. Last time out he was down when he needed to be and up when he needed to be. He was in-between those two tonight.”
Gibson escaped a jam of his own in the first before settling down.
All-Stars Manny Machado and Adam Jones singled and doubled, respectively, to put runners on second and third with one out before Gibson struck out Chris Davis and Matt Wieters to end the first. Gibson struck out seven, one off a season high, and has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last four turns.
“All these are learning experiences and definitely a good feeling when you can go out there and execute a couple of pitches when you don’t feel your best and have the defence make great plays behind you,” Gibson said. “Getting out of the first inning was big and I think the offence took that momentum and went on to score three really quickly, so it was good.”
NO BULL, JUST DOZIER
The Twins started their promotion for second baseman Brian Dozier to be named an All-Star in the American League’s final player vote with a unique attraction.
A bulldozer was stationed outside Target Field on the stadium plaza with the sign “No Bull, #VoteDozier.” Several teammates posed for photos with the bulldozer. Minnesota players and coaches wore white T-shirts for batting practice with a picture of a bulldozer and the slogan.
“I think it’s really nice and cool of the Twins to do all the advertising, and go above and beyond with the bulldozer and stuff,” Dozier said.
Dozier is hitting .260 with an AL-leading 46 extra-base hits this season to go with 42 RBIs. He hit a walk-off home run Monday for his 17th homer of the year. He is up against Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Detroit outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner and Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas.
SOME HELP FROM THE WALL
A little home-field bounce helped Gibson pull off the rare strikeout, 1-3 putout against Jones to end the third inning. Gibson’s strikeout pitch got behind catcher Kurt Suzuki but bounced off the limestone backstop back to the field of play where Gibson alertly picked up the ball and threw to first base for the putout.
Minnesota optioned backup catcher Chris Herrmann to Triple-A Rochester following the game and selected the contract of catcher Eric Fryer from Rochester.
Herrmann had seen limited playing time behind veteran Kurt Suzuki and hit .156 in 25 games. Fryer, 29, has played parts of two seasons previously with the Twins and was hitting .299 in Triple-A.
Minnesota transferred right-handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the club’s 40-man roster. Nolasco is scheduled for surgery Monday to alleviate a right ankle impingement.
Orioles: Wieters caught on back-to-back days for the first time since returning from Tommy John surgery June 5. Wieters last caught consecutive days on May 1 and 2, 2014.
Twins: Byron Buxton (left thumb sprain) was on the field prior to the team’s batting practice but just as an observer. Buxton _ the team’s top prospect who made his major league debut on June 14 and hit .189 in 11 games _ is expected to be out at least a month after being placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 25.
Orioles: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 2.96) has allowed one run over his last two starts but is coming off a seven-inning, one-run loss against the White Sox.
Twins: LHP Tom Milone (4-1, 3.02) will look to keep his strong return going. Milone _ who returned from a Triple-A stint on June 4 _ has a 1.69 ERA in his last five starts, going 2-0 during the stretch.