Royce Lewis has played just 15 games in the majors since the Minnesota Twins made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 draft. However, if his start to the 2023 season is any indication, he has a flair for the dramatic.
On Monday, the one-year anniversary of the second ACL injury to his right knee, Lewis finally returned to the majors and hit a three-run homer to help propel the Twins to a 7-5 victory at Houston.
Then on Thursday, in his first game back in Minneapolis since injuring the knee making a highlight-reel grab on the warning track in center field, Lewis clobbered a two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Minnesota's 7-6 win over Cleveland.
The Twins and Guardians will square off in the second game of a four-game series on Friday. Minnesota's Bailey Ober (3-2, 2.68 ERA) will oppose Cleveland's Aaron Civale (1-1, 2.94) in a matchup of right-handers.
Lewis' home run off Guardians reliever Trevor Stephan went 421 feet onto the grass berm in dead center and landed about 25 feet from the spot he had injured his knee a year earlier. It also set the stage for Willi Castro's walk-off sacrifice fly an inning later.
"This is huge," Lewis said of the comeback win against the reigning American League Central champions. "It's a big week for us. We got a (series) win against the World Series champs and then to go ahead and beat our division rival ..."
It was the fourth home run in 53 career at-bats for Lewis to go along with 11 career RBIs.
"He takes a good, adult hack," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We've seen some balls go to center field and not get out of the ballpark this year, but it couldn't hold him. He's got a little extra something behind it."
After the game, Twins Hall of Famer Rod Carew, a seven-time batting champion, tweeted about Lewis: "I've said it before. I'll say it again. This kid is special."
The Twins, who lost Byron Buxton (rib soreness), Carlos Correa (plantar fasciitis) and Max Kepler (migraine) midway through the game, still managed to rally for the win against a Cleveland bullpen that saw a lot of work while taking two of three games at Baltimore earlier this week.
Stephan gave up three runs in the eighth and Eli Morgan loaded the bases on two walks (one intentional) and a double by Jorge Polanco before Castro hit the winning fly ball.
"We've leaned on them heavily," Cleveland catcher Mike Zunino said of the team's relievers. "You know, they've been so good for us. Hopefully we can regroup and get a good start from (Civale on Friday) and get back to it."
Civale will be making his first start since a 5-3 loss to Seattle on April 7, when he sustained a left oblique strain. He produced a 4.91 ERA in three rehab starts for Triple-A Columbus.
Civale is 1-4 with a 4.20 ERA in eight career starts against the Twins, including 0-2 with a 4.39 ERA in five starts at Minneapolis.
Ober, meanwhile, is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in four career starts against Cleveland.
The big question for the Twins will be how long they will be without Buxton, who was hit in the ribs with a 97 mph fastball by Tanner Bibee, as well as Correa and Kepler.
Baldelli said Buxton would get imaging done on the ribs on Friday morning but was hopeful for a positive result because the injury didn't seem to get worse after he left the game.
Correa said he took a wrong step while throwing to first baseman Alex Kirilloff between innings and the pain got worse during the inning.
"I wasn't even feeling it today and that one step ... just completely changed my day," Correa said Thursday. "We'll see how it goes tomorrow."
--Field Level Media