MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nelson Cruz is hardly slowing down. If anything, he’s heating up.
The 39-year-old Minnesota slugger extended his recent tear Saturday night, hitting three home runs in a game for the second time in 10 days and powering the AL Central-leading Twins to an 11-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
A day after he homered, doubled twice and drove in five runs, Cruz again had five RBIs.
“I think my approach is the right one,” Cruz said. “My body feels good, and I have the right approach.”
Cruz hit a two-run homer in the first inning, a solo drive in the second and a two-run shot in the sixth. He didn’t get a chance at a record-tying fourth home run — he was left on deck when Jorge Polanco grounded out to end the eighth.
Cruz has 11 homers and 23 RBIs in his last nine starts.
“Hopefully I keep finding runners on base,” Cruz said. “I can only drive (in) runs when I find runners on base. We’ve got a great lineup. They all get on base for me.”
Cruz connected for a career-high three homers on July 25 against the White Sox, and matched that mark against the Royals. He has 30 homers this year and 390 for his career, tying Graig Nettles for 62nd place.
Only two other players have had two three-homer games within 10 days. Doug DeCinces did it for the California Angels on Aug. 3 and Aug. 8, 1982, and Johnny Mize did it for the St. Louis Cardinals on July 13 and July 20, 1938.
Cruz is the first Twins player to have multiple three-homer games in the same season. He’s hit at least 30 homers in six consecutive seasons. Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion are the only other active players to have accomplished that.
“Well, my vocabulary is not good enough to really do the guy justice,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “If you’re around long enough, you see a lot of impressive things, but what we’re watching right now is something that the likes of it, I haven’t seen anything like it before. I don’t think anybody else has either, but again, are we surprised that we’re seeing it from him? Absolutely not. It’s just what he does. He continues to go out there and produce at levels that nobody else does.”
Polanco and C.J. Cron also homered for the Twins, who lead Cleveland by three games.
Jorge Soler homered and Meibrys Viloria had two RBIs for the Royals, who have lost five consecutive games and eight of nine.
The Twins homered three times in a five-run second inning off Danny Duffy (5-6). Cron, reinstated from the injured list earlier in the day, hit a solo homer. Polanco later had a three-run drive, and Cruz followed with a home run.
“We’ve got a lot of ways we can beat you,” Twins starter Kyle Gibson said. “So it’s been fun to watch.”
Max Kepler and Cron had RBI singles in the fifth. Cron finished with three hits.
Gibson (11-4) allowed two earned runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Duffy gave up nine runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was tagged for four homers, walked two and struck out five. The last time Duffy gave up four homers in one game was May 2, 2018, in Boston.
“They’re not very forgiving,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Nelson Cruz is swinging the bat really well right now. I mean, he’s not missing. You throw something that’s got a little too much of the plate and he’s gonna ride it.”
Former Twins closer Joe Nathan was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame prior to the game. Nathan spent seven of his 16 major league seasons in Minnesota. He recorded a franchise-record 260 saves in 460 games. Forty-five of Nathan’s 377 career saves came against the Royals.
Twins: OF Byron Buxton (left shoulder subluxation) and RHP Michael Pineda (right triceps strain) were placed on the 10-day injured list. RHP Zack Littell and OF Jake Cave were recalled from Triple-A Rochester. … LHP Lewis Thorpe was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Cron (right thumb inflammation).
RHP Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.73 ERA) starts for the Twins on Sunday against Royals RHP Brad Keller (7-10, 4.01).