ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The scar on the back of Miguel Sano's lower right leg is deep, dark and horseshoe-shaped, a permanent remnant of the late start he got to this season. "My souvenir," he said with a laugh.
He's got another nice souvenir now. Well, some fan in the cheap seats at Angels Stadium does.
Sano, back just five days from that scar-caused absence, hammered a pitch from Los Angeles Angels reliever Ty Buttrey into those seats beyond the right-field scoreboard, a 390-foot reminder of what a game-changer he can be. That blast changed a tense, tied game into the Minnesota Twins' sixth win in seven games, a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles.
The win, set up when Jake Odorizzi went unscored upon for the fourth time in five starts, restores the Twins' lead in the AL Central to 5 1/2 games over Cleveland, and continues the second-best start to a season for the Twins, now 31-16.
It also just amplifies the thrill that Sano feels about what he's certain will be his best season yet.
"I feel so good. I'm so happy again," the Twins' third baseman said shortly before Monday's game. He also connected on a long one Saturday in Seattle amid the Twins' six-homer outburst against the Mariners, and said it did wonders for his confidence. "The home run, it felt great because it's like, 'I'm really back.' I worked so hard in the offseason, and I want to hit more of them."
He did a few hours later, at the best moment possible. After Odorizzi pitched five almost spotless innings, only once allowing a runner to reach second base, the Twins turned over a 1-0 lead to their bullpen. But Tommy La Stella, who pounded the Twins by batting .600 (9 for 15) last week in Target Field, victimized them again, this time by singling home the tying run off Taylor Rogers in the seventh inning.
The Angels turned to righthander Ty Buttrey, who had allowed only two runs in 21 appearances all season, to keep the score tied. But after Eddie Rosario singled, Sano foiled that plan, turning a low 97-mph fastball into a missile headed for the seats in a hurry.
"I feel good at the plate. My timing is not 100% yet, but better every day," the 26-year-old slugger had said, and he proved it with that shot. "We have a lot of games yet, and I feel like it's still going to be a great season."
Could be. Only in 1970, when they went 32-15 through 47 games, did the Twins have a faster start -- and that team went on to win a division title.