Home News Royce Lewis returns to Target Field and belts game-tying homer in walk-off winner

Royce Lewis returns to Target Field and belts game-tying homer in walk-off winner

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MINNEAPOLIS — When Royce Lewis was watching the 2021 World Series from home, he loved watching future teammate and mentor Carlos Correa celebrating a huge homer for the Astros by tapping his outstretched wrist — the gesture signaling, “It’s my time.”

That’s why, as Lewis glided toward third base following his dramatic game-tying homer in the eighth inning of the Twins’ 7-6, walk-off win over the Guardians on Thursday, he looked at third-base coach Tommy Watkins and tapped his outstretched wrist.

Because it’s finally time.

“It’s time,” Lewis said. “It’s not my time. It’s just the Twins’ time. It’s time to play baseball. It’s time for me to have fun again. It’s time to celebrate a homer.”

Regardless of what Lewis says, it is his time. He’s waited long enough for this, sitting on the sidelines through arduous recoveries from two torn ACLs that cost him back-to-back seasons, able only to dream of these moments and relive the memories of the short, explosive 12-game cameo he got to live his big league dream before it was wrenched away from him last May.

The hometown fans didn’t get to see Lewis’ immediate splash upon his return to the team earlier this week — so he put on an encore, just for them.

Only days after almost singlehandedly willing the Twins to a victory over the Astros with a three-run homer and game-tying single in the ninth inning during his season debut on Monday, the club’s No. 2 prospect commanded the spotlight again in his first game of the season at Target Field.

Lewis’ two-run blast erased the three-run deficit before Willi Castro‘s walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth lifted the Twins to their third win in four games.

The scuffling Minnesota offense lacked big hits in big moments for weeks, it seemed. And while the Twins hoped Lewis’ return would give them a jolt, they couldn’t have anticipated how these game-changing moments would keep finding him — or how he would, so quickly, become the guy they want at the plate in those moments.

“Royce being Royce, he’s ready,” Byron Buxton said. “That situation, there’s nobody else you want in that situation to go up there. His positivity and confidence, it’s out the roof.”

Lewis’ continued heroics and the big comeback did ease the impact of a game that featured several concerning developments elsewhere on the roster, from the five-run sixth inning that got away from Pablo López to injury-related exits for Buxton (sore ribs), Carlos Correa (plantar fasciitis) and Max Kepler (migraines), all of which will have to be evaluated again in the morning.

But in the moment, all that was forgotten in the raucous excitement as Lewis rounded the bases after parking Guardians reliever Trevor Stephan’s center-cut fastball an estimated 421 feet away to the grass berm over the center-field wall. After two sliders, he figured he was getting a fastball — and he was right.

Buxton, who had just finished affixing an ice pack to his left side, was trudging from the clubhouse to the dugout at the time.

He didn’t see it. But he sure heard it.

“I was making it right down to the steps,” Buxton said. “And then I heard the crowd. It was actually kind of cool. … Definitely got chills off of that.”

That’s what the Lewis experience entails. It’s not just what you see; much of the time, you can also feel his presence in what he brings to the dugout and the clubhouse — and, on Thursday, Buxton and others certainly heard his presence in that game-changing moment.

“He brings a lot of energy, and obviously, a lot of talent,” Correa said. “He’s on fire out of the gate. That’s a great player right there with a lot of talent. We saw what he can do last year for the short amount of time he was here. He’s going to be a special player in this league.”

If it’s now the Twins’ time as well to start winning more of these games, Lewis’ jolt seems to have played no small part in that.

And while the Twins hope Correa won’t need to miss more time with the plantar fasciitis, having a young, dynamic shortstop playing like this could certainly take some pressure off the situation.

“There’s a reason why he was so highly thought of as a young player,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “What he’s done so far, just in a couple games, we’re not winning these games unless he’s doing some of these things in these games.”

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