DETROIT – Replay proved Nelson Cruz wrong on Monday. So Cruz provided his own replays.
When umpire Kerwin Danley ruled Cruz's would-be grand slam to the right-field corner a foul ball in the third inning of the Twins' 15-6 romp over the Tigers, Cruz disagreed. But video proof reaffirmed the call.
Cruz's solution? He hit the next pitch over the left-field wall. And then he did it again three innings later, with a little extra oomph.
The 40-year-old designated hitter also doubled, helping the Twins piece together two five-run innings and their third consecutive victory.
"I was a little anxious to start a game, I guess," Cruz said after getting one at-bat per game in Milwaukee's DH-free park. "It was nice to be back."
It was nice having him, too, manager Rocco Baldelli said, though in a 14-hit, 11-walk attack, it almost seemed like overkill. Willians Astudillo drove in two runs with a pair of doubles and a single; Andrelton Simmons picked up a couple of RBI with a broken-bat single; and Matt Shoemaker introduced himself to his new team by taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
But the Twins seemed particularly pleased to have their unchallenged leader spearheading their attack. Especially when he came up in the second inning with the bases loaded against Detroit starter Jose Urena. Cruz swung at a fastball and hit a fly ball that curled toward the right field foul pole and into the seats. Danley raised his hands, signaling foul ball. Cruz pointed toward the field, signaling fair.
Umpires huddled, then decided to let replay decide.
"I thought it was fair. [But] I lost it for a little bit," Cruz said. "I even asked the catcher and the umpire, and they said the same thing — they saw it fair, and at the last moment, it kind of took off toward the foul pole."
Cruz dug back into the batter's box and this time got a breaking ball. There was no need for replay as it landed on a tarp between the bullpens beyond the left-field wall, his 10th grand slam but first in his three seasons with the Twins.
"A lot of guys hit foul homers and then get emotional," Baldelli said. "Great major league hitters have this ability to stay focused."
That intensity returned when leading off the fifth inning vs. reliever Buck Farmer, too. Cruz worked the count to 3-1, then unloaded on a fastball. It landed in the second tier of seats in left field. Its exit velocity was measured at 116.6 miles per hour, the hardest-hit home run for a Twins player since StatCast was installed in ballparks in 2008, beating Kennys Vargas' 116.0 shot in 2017.
While Cruz, who later added a double and hit a fly ball caught on the warning track, and his Twins teammates were piling on the runs, Shoemaker was preventing … well, anything. The veteran righthander, signed as a free agent in January, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Wilson Ramos spoiled it with a line-drive just inside the left-field foul pole.
With a group of family members among the announced crowd of 7,232 at Comerica Park to watch Shoemaker, the Michigan native gave up one run on three hits and no walks, striking out five in his six-inning Twins debut. Which is great — but actually subpar for Shoemaker against his hometown team.
In fact, Shoemaker's career ERA against the Tigers actually rose from 0.68 to 0.79 by giving up that single run. "I always enjoy pitching here," he understated.
And the Twins, all of them, always enjoy Cruz's big days.
"Old man crushing," first baseman Miguel Sano roared during Cruz's postgame video news conference. "But I'm still stronger."
Cruz disputed that, too. Someone check with replay.