Now that the season has ended we can look back and decide on the most memorable, the most impacting, the most important home runs of the Minnesota Twins’ 2010 season? No need to set this up, let’s jump right in….
10. April, 12th 2010 Jason Kubel homers off Scott Atchison
The first (official) home run in the Twins’ new stadium. Lots of bets were placed around this one. Who would hit it? Would it be a Twin or a visitor? A solo shot? A three-run dinger? A game-winning opposite-field, broken-bat, 2-out Granny? Denard Span hit the first one during an exhibition game vs. the Cards. That one didn’t count (unless you had money on the line). Kubel’s did and this home run made “Jason Kubel” the answer to at least one trivia question for the rest of his lifetime and yours.
Check out Jason Kubel’s home run right here.
9. Danny Valencia Hits a Gram Slam off Zack Grienke
This makes the list for several reasons. First, it was Valencia’s first home run. Second, it was off 2009 American League Cy Young winner Zack Grienke. Third, it put the game out of reach for the Royals in the first inning (the Twins would go on to win 19-1). Finally, it convinced a lot of Twins fans that we had found a new third baseman. Valencia went on a tear and was batting near .400 after 100 at-bats. We knew he’d settle down, and eventually he did but he still continues to take good cuts and Twins fans are looking forward to keeping him around a little while longer.
8. Jim Thome’s 3-Run Shot vs. Oakland (During Slowey’s 7-inning no-hitter)
Significant, not so much for being a decisive blow to complete a 3-game sweep of the A’s, but for the game where it occurred. Kevin Slowey had just thrown 7 innings of no-hit baseball and with a 1-0 lead, he was (rightly) yanked by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. If Gardy had known Thome would jack a line drive to the right field seats with a 3-0 count to give the Twins a 4-run lead, should he have let Slowey return to pitch the 8th? The great debate began.
7. Joe Mauer’s Ninth Inning, 2-Out Game-Tying Homer vs. Philadelphia
“If the Twins end up winning this it will be just an awesome comeback.” Th announcer said something like that while the Twins fought their way back from a 9-4 deficit with a dramatic 5-run 9th inning. Lots of good things happened during that Twins’ 9th inning, including a 2-run shot by Jim Thome. But it was Mauer’s 2-out, down-to-the-last-at-bat, nearly Kirk Gibson-style home run that tied the game in glorious fashion and lead to what would clearly be an awesome comeback.
Crank up the volume on this and just listen to the crowd’s collective groan after Mauer connects.
6. Drew Butera’s 1st Career Homer in the 10th Inning of the Same Game
Great, not because it was Butera’s first career home run, or a solo shot that gave the Twins an extra-inning lead in a game we should have lost but went on to win. This was great because Drew’s father and former Twin Sal Butera was in the stands – and it was the first time Sal had seen his son play in the pros. Baseball, forever a game where parents watch their children play and Drew Butera gave Sal a great gift just one day shy of Father’s Day.
5. Michael Cuddyer’s 2-Run Shot Off C.C. Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALDS
Why does this one make the list? Because for a short time, for probably just over an hour, Twins fans thought we might actually beat C.C. Sabathia and take the important first game of the playoffs. We know how it turned out but for a moment, we knew what it felt like to not be frustrated. To have the upper hand. To not be losing – to be winning!!
4. Jim Thome’s 574th Home Run to Pass Harmon Killebrew for 10th All Time
In a year that saw A-Rod hit his 600th* home run, Jim Thome’s drug-free movement into 10th all time got about 1/10th of the attention. But he didn’t care. This was a great home run, historic, and was the second homer in a game that saw Thome tie the Killer with #573 as well.
3. Joe Mauer’s 3-run shot vs. Chicago on September 15th
A home run that effectively demolished all hope for the White Sox and put the AL Central crown out of their reach and into the hands of the Twins. Minnesota did not win the division that night, but they took such a lead in the standings that the White Sox would need to donate an entire truckload of cigarettes and rum to Jobu to have even a glimmer of a chance. The division race was essentially over as soon as the ball landed in the seats.
2. Jason Kubel’s Grand Slam Off Mariano Rivera
Epic, glorious, unheard of. Kubel’s grand-salami gave the Twins a lead they’d never relinquish and helped snap a 13-game losing streak vs. the Yankees. Kubel would later have a 2-homer game vs. the Yankees at Target Field the following week but neither of those could touch the sheer greatness and impossibility of Kubel’s 4-run bomb against the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. This was a home run that electrified Twins fans and stunned the Yankees. “Isn’t his save percentage like 1.000?” commented one Yankee after the game. Rivera hadn’t given up a grand slam in eight years, and had never given one up at home since becoming the Yankee’s closer. In fact, the last time Mariano gave up a grand slam, Jason Kubel had just turned 20. Joe Mauer was 19. Delmon Young? 16.
1. Jim Thome’s 10th Inning Game Winner vs the White Sox on August 17th
We knew it would happen sooner or later. It just had to. Nothing else to say about baseball’s best off-season signing of 2010. Absolutely magnificent.
For added laughs, watch Hawk Harrelson’s version to hear some very colorful White Sockian commentary.
It was a fun year Twins fans! Good luck in 2011.
Mark McGinty is the author of “The Cigar Maker” and “Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy”