CLEVELAND -- In a pitchers' duel between Twins right-hander Ervin Santana and Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin on Friday, Miguel Sano proved to be the difference in the game, as the Twins third baseman hit an opposite-field, 381-foot home run to right field in the top of the first inning to lead the Twins to a 1-0 win.
Sano's homer was his 10th of the season, and his fourth to the opposite field. Sano's four big flies to right field this season equals the amount of home runs that he hit to right field in his first two seasons in the Majors, showing that the third baseman's power is developing to all fields.
"Last season I didn't hit too much to right field, so this year I look to hit more to right field and center field," Sano said. "When I see a pitch that I feel comfortable to hit to right field, I'm swinging."
Sano has homered in his last two games, and both have been driven the other way. Twins manager Paul Molitor is pleased with Sano's improved approach at the plate.
"When he came up, there was a little bit of a fear that he had to pull the ball to pad his home run numbers and being a contributor, and just the confidence he has because of the work he's put in to understand that no part of the park is too big for him," Molitor said. "We've seen the ball go out to the other field, to center field. It's just so much better of an approach, and he's got the ability to do that, and he's starting to trust that more."
Per Statcast™, 30.6 percent of Sano's fly balls and line drives have been to right field and he has posted a 1.409 slugging percentage on balls hit to right, both of which are by far career bests.
Last season, 3 of Miguel Sano's 25 home runs were hit to right field. This season, 4 of his 10 home runs have been hit to right. pic.twitter.com/c5nAuoDWK0
"I'm trying to hit the ball more to right field, and trying to let the ball come more to me and try to hit it both sides," he said. "I never try to do too much."
Sano's approach this season has also had a positive impact on his overall numbers, as he is hitting .419 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 12 games. In 13 road games this season, Sano is hitting .391 with seven home runs, 19 RBIs and an OPS of 1.426.
Before Saturday's game against the Indians, Molitor said that the No. 1 thing he is impressed by with Sano's start to the season has been his consistency and how far he's come since his rookie campaign.
"I think everyone is going to speak very glowingly in those terms given his first six weeks of the season," Molitor said. "I would be one of those people. I think that last year was a learning experience for him and maybe the first time in a long time that he's had to fight for results in this game. Maybe a little too much was made of the issues surrounding what he was bringing to the park every day.
"He certainly is putting the team above himself, and those are the things you look for in development, in terms of a maturing young player."
After the Twins designated him for assignment following an 11-1 loss at home to the Red Sox on May 6, right-handed pitcher Michael Tonkin has cleared waivers. The Twins announced on Saturday that the reliever will remain in the Twins organization and was assigned to Triple-A Rochester.
In nine appearances this season, the right-hander went 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA. He allowed eight earned runs and 14 hits while striking out 13 and walking 10.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland who covered the Twins on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.