CHICAGO — Opposing pitchers may come to call him Dr. Evil. His teammates already do.
Because when Royce Lewis bats with the bases loaded, he’s a bad, bad man. Two days after he dressed as Dr. Evil during the Minnesota Twins’ rookie flight, Lewis tied a franchise record for the most grand slams in a season.
Behind Lewis’ fourth grand slam in 18 games and a strong effort from Bailey Ober, the Twins topped the Chicago White Sox 10-2 Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. Lewis reached base four times in five plate appearances in a win that reduced the Twins’ magic number to seven games and kept them eight games in front of the victorious Cleveland Guardians.
“I’m absolutely amazed,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’ve never seen anybody do anything like this in my life ever on any level, high school baseball, college, anything. I’ve never seen anyone do that. That’s just amazing.”
Lewis’ accomplishment in the first 66 games of his career, belting five grand slams, is probably on par with what Dr. Evil scripted for his plans of world domination — if he were a ballplayer instead of a criminal mastermind.
Featuring a shaved head and often wearing a bandana, Lewis bears enough resemblance to the villain Mike Myers made famous in the “Austin Powers” series that teammates made him wear a Dr. Evil costume on a 75-minute flight from Minneapolis to Chicago on Wednesday as part of an annual, leaguewide ritual for rookie players and staff members.
If that wasn’t enough, the Twins also provided Lewis with his own Mini-Me, forcing junior advance scout Joey Casey to dress as Lewis’ evil miniature clone on Wednesday’s flight.
Rookie dress up day 💁♀️
Who did the best? pic.twitter.com/r4UKMVDmoB
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 13, 2023
Lewis leaned into the bit during Thursday’s win, turning to his teammates in the dugout and raising his pinky near his mouth a la Dr. Evil as he rounded first base after belting a fourth-inning homer.
With the way he’s playing since returning off the injured list Aug. 15, Lewis, who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2029, could take it a step further this offseason and request a contract extension from the Twins. His demand: one hundred billion dollars.
Such an ask would seemingly be more realistic than what’s occurred lately whenever Lewis bats with the bases loaded.
“Some of the guys in the dugout were like, ‘All right, watch this, watch this,’” Ober said. “Sure enough, he got the fastball and hit it a mile. So, it’s just surreal right now watching him do his thing.”
Same as when Dr. Evil attempted to hold the world hostage, Lewis revels in the moment whenever he bats with runners in scoring position. He’s even more giddy with the bases loaded.
Believing the pressure is entirely on the pitcher to meet his ransom and offer a fastball over the middle, Lewis attacks the situation with the poise and patience of an experienced evil genius. He took that approach to the plate in the second inning Friday after rookie Edouard Julien drew a walk ahead of him to load the bases with two outs.
Looking for his pitch, Lewis worked the count to 3-1 and forced White Sox starter Jesse Scholtens to throw him a fastball. When Scholtens acquiesced, Lewis was waiting in his evil lair to pounce on it. Just like a shark with a frickin’ laser beam attached its head, Lewis obliterated the pitch to give the Twins a 4-0 lead.
As he passed first base, Lewis put his pinky to his mouth once again.
“When I got to 2-0, it (crossed my mind),” Lewis said. “I was like, ‘OK, fastball down the middle, that’s all I’m looking for.’ … It worked out.”
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) September 16, 2023
Unlike Dr. Evil, Lewis’ success rate is much higher. Whereas secret agent Austin Powers often foiled the plans of his evil counterpart and his trusted pal, Mr. Bigglesworth, opposing pitchers haven’t yet figured out how to retire Lewis with the bases loaded.
After Friday’s grand slam, Lewis is 6-for-11 with four grand slams and 20 RBIs when hitting with the bases loaded this season. Since returning a month ago, Lewis is hitting .280/.374/607 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs.
His four grand slams are tied for the most by a rookie since Alexei Ramírez accomplished the feat for the White Sox in 2008. Prior to Lewis, the shortest span in which any player ever hit four grand slams was 39 games, accomplished by Don Mattingly in 1987.
That Lewis has also single-handedly solved an issue that consistently felled the Twins throughout the first half — hitting with the bases loaded — should only further his quest for world domination.
“There’s a lot to come with this guy,” Baldelli said. “This guy is capable of a lot of different things. He’s capable of a lot.”
Bailey Ober strong in return to majors
Nineteen days after his last outing, Ober was much more in command than his previous six starts. Attacking hitters from the outset, Ober didn’t issue any walks and limited the White Sox’s offense early. The White Sox didn’t put a runner into scoring position against Ober until Elvis Andrus ended his bid for a shutout with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. By that time, the Twins were already ahead by six runs.
Making his second start of the month (the other was last week at Triple A), Ober threw 93 pitches. He finished with 13 swings-and-misses en route to six strikeouts, limiting Chicago to two earned runs and five hits in five innings pitched.
“Felt like the mentality the last two outings was just attack these guys, make them swing the bat,” said Ober, who last pitched in the majors Aug. 27. “Whatever happens, happens. But I feel good the last two outings, and hopefully I can keep going like that.”
Carlos Correa returned to the lineup after two games off, turning in a dazzling diving stop and going 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. … Louie Varland was outstanding again out of the bullpen, striking out four batters and allowing a hit in two scoreless innings. Varland’s fastball averaged 97 mph and his cutter sat at 91. … Reliever Brock Stewart made a successful return to the mound for Triple-A St. Paul. Pitching one scoreless inning, Stewart struck out two batters and finished with five swings-and-misses in 12 pitches. His fastball averaged 97 mph. If Stewart emerges from Friday’s outing healthy, he’d pitch again for the Saints on Tuesday and rejoin the team next weekend in Minneapolis.
(Photo: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)