MINNEAPOLIS — Many fans use the third inning to get food and drinks; they’ve gotten settled in their seats and it’s often around dinnertime. That’s not a great strategy for Twins fans.
For the Twins, the third inning is when the fireworks tend to start.
The third inning has been, by far, the Twins’ most productive inning offensively. In 64 games, they have scored 72 runs in the third and outscored opponents by 36 runs. By then, the lineup is usually seeing the opponent’s starter for the second time.
“You’re ready to hit the first time without a doubt; you’re ready to attack. But I think you also get a chance to see how the ball is moving that day, what the ball is doing that day,” hitting coach James Rowson said. “There’s nothing like standing in the box for those guys and seeing firsthand the way the ball is moving. I think the second at-bat, they’ve got a better shot.”
By then, there is dugout chatter about what hitters have been seeing, between hitters, Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said there was “no way to really objectively say,” why the third inning has been so fruitful but he credited his hitters with adjusting after their first at-bats.
“That they do learn from previous at-bats, and once a pitcher has to go through the order one time and go back around, I think our guys do go up there with a good plan and a good approach and they do again what good hitters do,” Baldelli said. “I think we force the opposing pitcher to either adjust or continue to make very good pitches.”
The proof is in the numbers. After the third inning, the Twins’ next-highest scoring innings have been the fourth (52 runs) and fifth (48). They averaging 1.13 runs in the third.
“There are some things that are kind of ironed out in the first inning of that game just to find out exactly how that pitcher is establishing himself,” Rowson said. “After that, we have professional guys that kind of have an idea of what the ball is doing and what their approach is going to be.”
Jorge Polanco’s breakout season has caught the attention of fans around the country. The shortstop is at the top of the All-Star Game voting leaderboard at his position. At Monday’s voting update, Polanco was ahead of Houston’s Carlos Correa by 65,789 votes.
Starting this year, the top three vote-getters at each position — and top nine in the outfield — will move from “The Primary” to a one-day starters election to be held later this month.
Polanco isn’t the only Twin on pace for the runoff: Jason Castro is third among catchers; C.J. Cron second among first basemen; Nelson Cruz is the third among designated hitters; Eddie Rosario is sixth among outfielders.
A couple of Twins are just outside that threshold with Jonathan Schoop currently fourth among second basemen, and outfielders Max Kepler and Byron Buxton 10th and 11th, respectively. Marwin Gonzalez is seventh among third basemen.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout led all American League vote-getters with 951,002 tallies in the first update.
Mejia to rehab
Left-hander Adalberto Mejia is set to begin a rehab assignment with high-Class A Fort Myers more than a month after landing on the injured list with a calf strain.
The reliever has been rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla., and recently met up with the Twins when they were in Tampa Bay, where a leaner-looking Mejia threw for Twins coaches. Prior to landing on the IL, Mejia had given up 11 runs in 11⅓ innings with an 8.74 earned-run average.
“I’m working on everything,” Mejia said last week. “Everything with baseball, my body, everything I can do to get better to where I was before this happened so I can come back stronger.”