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Royce Lewis shines in return but Twins fall to Yankees

NEW YORK — Was there ever any doubt that Royce Lewis would announce his return like this?

In his first major league game last season after major knee surgery, he hit a home run and drove in four runs. In the first game of the Wild Card Series, after missing the end of last season with a hamstring strain, he hit two home runs. So on Tuesday, upon his return from a quadriceps strain that he suffered on Opening Day, his at-bats were required viewing.

Lewis drew a pair of walks before hitting a home run, accounting for the Twins’ only run in their 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night in the Bronx. He also made a sliding stop complete with a strong throw, showing out in the field, too.

“I think today was a good example of how much I miss the game,” Lewis said. “That’s exactly why I was so antsy to get back, because I feel so good playing the game right now and I love it and you love it and you just crave it. You want it more. Just like In-N’-Out when I was a kid.”

In five plate appearances this year, the third baseman has hit two home runs, walked twice and has yet to make an out.

While the Twins (33-27) weathered the past couple of months without him well, Lewis made it quickly apparent how much they’ve been missing without him.

“Pretty sweet return for him and more to come,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

But he can’t do it alone, and on Tuesday, the rest of his teammates were quieted at the plate — the Twins’ only other hit was a Christian Vázquez double in the third inning off of Luis Gil.

Gil was a 19-year-old starter who hadn’t pitched at a level above the Dominican Summer League when the Twins shipped him to New York for outfielder Jake Cave. Cave played in 335 games for the Twins, serving as a backup outfielder over the course of five seasons.

Gil, meanwhile, spent most of that time in the minor leagues, developing.

Tuesday, the Twins got a chance to look at the pitcher they once traded away — and they saw firsthand why he was recently named the American League Pitcher and the Rookie of the Month for May.

“He’s got good stuff,” Baldelli said. “You see a lot of good stuff in the game. He’s better than most.”

Gil held the Twins scoreless for the duration of his six-inning start, giving up just the double to Vázquez and lowering his earned-run average to 1.82. And while Bailey Ober did enough to keep the Twins close, it wasn’t enough on a day where the Twins did little offensively.

Ober ran into some bad luck in the third inning, giving up a home run to Gleyber Torres on a ball that would not have been out in any of the other 29 major league ballparks. An inning later, an Aaron Judge double that stayed just fair in right field brought home another pair of runs to give the Yankees (43-19) a 3-0 lead.

“A couple of inches here and there, that’s just the game,” Ober said. “Every ballpark is different. That’s why this game is beautiful. You’ve got to adjust.”

The Yankees tacked on another pair of runs in the eighth inning when Giancarlo Stanton took Caleb Thielbar deep for his 15th home run of the season, sending the Twins to a loss despite Lewis’s impactful return.

“What he does when he returns from long breaks is really, it’s nothing short of remarkable,” Baldelli said. “We lost the game today, so it’s hard to start gushing about things. But I’ve never heard of or seen anyone do what he did today and he has done three, four other times in his career. I’ve never seen anybody do that ever. Not even close.”

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