The two best home run hitting teams in major league baseball square off when the Seattle Mariners open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
The Mariners, coming off Sunday's six-homer effort in a 9-3 road victory over the Los Angeles Angels, leapfrogged the Twins for the major league lead with 126 home runs -- despite Minnesota hitting four home runs in a 12-2 victory at Detroit.
The Twins, who have played five fewer games than the Mariners, have 125 home runs, tying the franchise record for most home runs hit before the All-Star Game set in 1964. That team, led by future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, needed 81 games to accomplish that feat, 17 more than this year's squad.
The Twins will start left-hander Martin Perez (7-2, 3.72 ERA), who has an 8-5 record and 3.26 ERA in 22 career appearances and 20 starts against the Mariners including a 7-1 victory at Seattle on May 17. Seattle will counter with right-hander Mike Leake (5-6, 4.30).
Leake is coming in off a complete-game 14-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday, a game in which he allowed six hits and two walks while striking out five and throwing 119 pitches. He is 2-0 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Twins with both wins coming last season, including an 11-4 victory at Target Field.
Leake didn't pitch against Minnesota when the two teams played a four-game series in Seattle in mid-May. The Twins won three of those contests, outscoring the Mariners 40-18 and finishing with an 11-7 edge in home runs. That included a six-home run effort in an 18-4 victory that featured a grand slam by Byron Buxton and two home runs each by Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron.
The Twins played that series without designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who was sidelined with a sore wrist that forced him to miss two weeks. Cruz went 3-for-6 with his 11th home run of the season and three RBIs in the Twins' win at Detroit on Sunday and has homered in four consecutive games, one off the team record of five held by Killebrew (who did it three times), Marty Cordova and Brian Dozier.
"He's incredibly strong but he has a really, really direct path to the ball," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Cruz. "He's just a good hitter who just happens to be really strong. When you add all those things together you end up with one of the best hitters we've seen, one of the best hitters in our generation."
The same could also be said about Seattle first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who took over the American League home run lead with his 19th and 20th in Sunday's win at Anaheim Stadium, giving him 400 career homers and 1,202 career RBIs. Since 2012, the 36-year-old Encarnacion has hit 283 home runs, the most in the majors.
"What can you say about Edwin Encarnacion?" Seattle manager Scott Servais told reporters after the Mariners winning a series of at least three games since taking three of four from the Angels on April 18-21 in Anaheim. "I mean unbelievable. Only 55 other guys in the history of this game have done it (hit 400 homers) and there's over 19,000 that have played. ... He's been a true professional since we've got him. I'm really happy for him."
--Field Level Media