Twins' G2 recipe for success built around 3 key ingredients

October 9th, 2023

HOUSTON -- The Twins’ clubhouse was quiet after their Game 1 loss on Saturday night. Not somber, but focused.

Veteran shortstop Carlos Correa knew what needed to happen to shift momentum back in his team’s favor: “Tomorrow we have to capitalize early, don’t let [Framber] Valdez get too comfortable on the mound and score some runs early, give Pablo [López] a good lead right away.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Correa’s recipe for success led to a 6-2 victory over the Astros on Sunday night in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park. And because the Twins stuck to Correa’s script, the series is now even, with each club having one win under its belt.

Step 1: Capitalize early
Correa, who enjoyed a 3-for-4 night, got Minnesota on the board in the first inning with an RBI double. It certainly helps when the postseason veteran sets the tone, but the Twins know that they’ll need other bats to join him in order to come out victorious. In the second, Kyle Farmer followed Correa’s lead.

Entering Sunday, Farmer had played in eight postseason games over the past six years and had never recorded a hit. But when he watched the first pitch he saw soar into the left-field seats for a two-run homer that, at the time, gave his club a three-run lead, he realized it was well worth the wait.

“All my 0-fers came off the bench with the Dodgers, so it was nice to get a start and put a good swing on it,” Farmer said.

So far during the postseason, teams are 11-3 when scoring first. Two of the losses came from Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card Series and one was by Baltimore on Sunday afternoon in the other ALDS matchup.

“In these playoff games, it’s who wants it more,” Twins backstop Ryan Jeffers said. “I promise you we’re not going to have any less energy than anybody else.”

Step 2: Don’t let Valdez get too comfortable
It started with Correa, but before Farmer had a chance to continue that momentum, it was Willi Castro who made sure Valdez couldn’t settle in on the rubber.

Castro led off the inning by falling behind, 0-2, in the count. Then, he watched two balls and fouled off two pitches before the seventh pitch of the at-bat resulted in a scorched single up the middle, setting up Farmer for the two-run blast.

“Willi put a great at-bat together,” Farmer said. “He kind of set up that inning for me, and then I was looking first-pitch heater, and [Valdez] threw it in the spot I was looking.”

Not only did chasing Valdez from the game in the fifth prove that the Twins had an excellent game plan, but it was also more proof that the club has put its first-half struggles against southpaws behind it.

Prior to the All-Star break, this lineup owned an 81 wRC+ against lefties (29th in MLB). In the second half, that jumped to a 125 wRC+ (third in MLB).

“I thought we did a really good job,” Jeffers said. “We made him work. We got his pitch count up pretty early, and we got some big hits.”

Step 3: Give López a good lead right away
An early lead not only helps build confidence in the dugout, it gives the team’s starting pitcher some much-needed breathing room. And when the Twins have someone like López on the rubber, all he needed was a little help from his offense. He could handle the rest.

López dazzled through seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out seven batters.

“So when you go out there and pop some runs and put some runs on the board, and your guy goes out there and sits them right down, that gets everyone kind of going,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You start riding that inning after inning.”

The biggest key was that after Minnesota accomplished its goal of getting ahead early, it didn’t take its foot off the gas. Correa did the heavy lifting, but Farmer provided the big blast and Edouard Julien delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh for an additional insurance run.

It resulted in a more upbeat clubhouse on Sunday night, but the same determination was palpable. The team is eager to get back to Target Field and now, with some momentum behind them, the Twins' confidence is only growing.

“You look for those momentum swings,” Baldelli said. “How much do they matter? I couldn't tell you how much they matter, but I think they matter, and I think everyone else in the dugout thinks they matter.”