It's his time: Correa crushes 1st regular-season walk-off HR

Two-run blast caps Twins' dramatic four-run rally against All-Star closer Williams

June 14th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- How is it even possible that had never hit a walk-off home run in his career before Tuesday night?

“Not in the regular season,” Correa said in a quick clarification. “I’ve got two in the playoffs -- most in history, tied with David Ortiz [and Bernie Williams].”

Right, of course. Sorry about that, Carlos.

Correa sure reacted like it was another one of those ultra-clutch postseason shots, bringing back the celebration in which he looked to his dugout and pointed to his wrist -- signaling “it’s my time,” like he did after he hit a go-ahead homer for the Astros in Game 1 of the 2021 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox -- after crushing a ball off the facing of Target Field’s left-field second deck to cap a four-run rally against elite Brewers closer Devin Williams for a 7-5 victory.

“Correa pointing to his watch, that was probably one of the coolest moments I've seen on a baseball field,” Edouard Julien said.

If the Twins wanted the chance to see for themselves some of those big playoff moments in which Correa has thrived, they needed to turn this offense around, and quickly -- and the shortstop's big swings have taken charge.

Three days after Correa crushed a go-ahead grand slam to break the seal on the Twins’ offense and prime a series victory in Toronto, he was right back at it with another huge swing in a key moment for his first career regular-season walk-off home run. And as his bat has roared to life, so have Minnesota’s bats around him.

“There’s certainly a correlation,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There’s going to be a correlation when [Byron Buxton] comes back, too.”

It sure felt like the Twins had already blown their opportunity. They loaded the bases in the eighth off reliever Joel Payamps before Joey Gallo watched a called strike three down the middle for the third out. Given the depths to which this offense had sunk in scoring three or fewer runs in seven consecutive games last week, they couldn’t afford to squander those rallies.

But Minnesota had been putting the pressure on throughout Tuesday’s game -- and facing one of the best relievers in the Majors, the offense exploded in the ninth.

Williams hadn’t blown a save all season, and he entered the game with one run allowed in 21 2/3 innings (0.42 ERA), thanks to the strength of his signature “airbender” changeup. The Twins just wanted to see him up in the zone as they tried to claw back from a 5-3 deficit.

That’s exactly what Michael A. Taylor did to lead off the bottom of the ninth, crushing a high fastball a Statcast-projected 425 feet to the center-field berm to trim the deficit to one.

Julien followed by showing off his advanced eye with some great takes to earn a walk. Then, pinch-runner Willi Castro added the dynamism on the basepaths the Twins have long lacked under Baldelli by immediately swiping second and blowing through third-base coach Tommy Watkins’ stop sign to score on Donovan Solano’s game-tying RBI single with the help of a throw that was to the first-base side of home plate.

That put Correa in the spotlight amid a season in which he has struggled mightily to find consistency at the plate to begin his six-year, $200 million deal, the largest free-agent contract in club history. But still, the confidence has remained.

“You want this guy at the plate when it's late innings and people are in scoring position or when you need to win,” Julien said.

After taking a first-pitch changeup for a strike and a second-pitch fastball for a ball, Correa committed to pull the next pitch with the shorter leg kick and shorter swing he’s worked on to bust out of this extended slump -- and he crushed the changeup a Statcast-projected 408 feet to send Target Field into delirium. It marked the first time in Williams’ five-year MLB career in which he allowed multiple homers in a game.

Correa pointed to his wrist, rounded the bases, held up as he neared home plate to lob his helmet into the crowd of his gathered teammates with a step-back jump shot -- avoiding Castro’s water dump -- and reveled in the kind of game-changing swing for which he’s developed a career-long reputation.

“It’s not easy to put together at-bats like that, but we did it,” Correa said. “I think that series in Toronto showed that the bats are coming alive, the at-bats have been getting better, and it’s good to see it happening in the late innings, especially against great pitching like that.”

“Sometimes, you just need something huge, and we got something huge late,” Baldelli said.