Twins respond to Correa injury with convincing doubleheader sweep

Jeffers' clutch bat secures Game 1 win; Woods Richardson earns first MLB victory in nightcap

April 14th, 2024

DETROIT -- The Twins called it a “gut punch” when they lost Carlos Correa to a mild right intercostal strain on Friday as they got methodically drubbed by the Tigers to lose for the fifth time in six games.

Instead of being incapacitated by that punch, they absorbed it -- and counterpunched to get their season back on track.

The Twins’ doubleheader sweep of the Tigers on Saturday felt as significant as any individual results could be at this early stage of the season, not just for the two notches in the win column, but also for the manner in which they found their 11-5, 12-inning victory in Game 1 and their 4-1 win in Game 2 -- with resilience and big moments from starters and depth players alike.

They couldn’t have found a better time for their first sweep of a doubleheader since Sept. 4, 2020.

“Yeah, we needed that,” said catcher Ryan Jeffers, who played the hero in Game 1. “We needed that as a team, we needed that as a fanbase, we needed that as everybody. From us, the players, to the coaches, to the fans, we needed to do that just to get a little bit of mojo back.”

Much of the first game was another slog for the bats -- until Jeffers came off the bench in the eighth.

It wasn’t his game-tying homer or the go-ahead single in the 11th that caught everyone’s eye; it was the gritty 12-pitch battle in the 12th that ended with a bases-clearing grounder getting through the third baseman. That finally gave the offense some breathing room by priming a seven-run frame after the bats had struggled to find any separation all season.

“It was sick, not going to lie,” utility man Austin Martin said. “You feed off of that. You can tell when a guy's in the box and he's grinding, and he's really trying to put the team in a good position to win.”

That spurred the Twins to a more normal-feeling second game, in which interim starting shortstop Willi Castro mashed a two-run homer, starting prospect Simeon Woods Richardson gave Minnesota a lights-out, six-inning spot start, Cole Sands continued his surprising dominance out of the ‘pen and Edouard Julien continued his return to form with a homer.

Yes, the Twins were built around their trio of stars in Correa, Royce Lewis and Byron Buxton -- two of whom are now injured -- but it was their depth that they lauded and built this team around, and that’s what made them look just a little more like themselves on Saturday.

In fact, every available position player and reliever except for the two additions on Saturday -- Jair Camargo and Matt Bowman -- played and contributed to one or both of the wins.

“It couldn’t have worked out much better with what we were looking at and what we were facing,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “The guys all showed up.”

It all focused around the pitching, with the tone set by Joe Ryan attacking the zone and piling up a career-high 12 strikeouts in his six-inning start in Game 1, an outing described by Baldelli as one of the most dominant of Ryan’s career.

That proved particularly important when the game stretched 12 innings thanks to Jeffers’ heroics and the Twins had to empty much of their bullpen, with another game left -- but Woods Richardson took all the stress away with a dominant six innings, finished by a stretch of 14 consecutive hitters retired, to earn his first career win at a pivotal time.

“Wasn't even counting it, wasn't even paying attention to it, honestly,” Woods Richardson said. “I was just trying to get the team back in the dugout. I know it was a close game most of the game, so trying to give our team the chance to get back in the dugout and start swinging it again.”

Couple that with the bullpen allowing only two unearned runs over nine innings in the twin bill, and it’s about as good of an answer the Twins could have hoped for in the wake of Correa’s loss -- and that, too, was reclassified from an oblique strain to a mild intercostal strain at the end of the day.

Talk about the difference 24 hours makes.

“When you lose a significant portion of your top guys, top names, it’s easy to get down if you let yourself,” Baldelli said. “But our guys did not. Our guys showed up really to play baseball, and they played a damn good day of baseball. And I’m very proud of them right now.”