'We want more of it': Twins look to build on series-opening win

April 23rd, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- Believe it or not, the Twins made it 20 games and nearly a month into the season before facing a team that currently sits below .500 in the standings -- and if they’re going to turn their season around, they’ve got to take full advantage of this upcoming stretch.

Monday’s game marked a good start -- but they’ll need to show that they can keep it going.

The Twins used a three-RBI return from the IL for Max Kepler and a needed resurgent start from a dominant Chris Paddack to turn in arguably their first complete performance of the season in a 7-0 shutout of the White Sox -- the exact sort of game on both sides of the ball that they needed against a opponent like the mightily struggling South Siders.

“This game, we play 162 for a reason,” Paddack said. “I felt like we put a lot of pressure on ourselves early on in the season of coming back [from] a great season last year. … I think tonight was a good jump-start for what’s to come in these next couple series.”

Granted, it’s just one win against the team with the worst record in the league, but for a Twins side that simply needed any spark whatsoever to get going, it’s finally something to build on -- from both a team standpoint and a personal standpoint for several players.

With six more games against the White Sox and three against the Angels coming up, they’ve got to seize upon this glimmer of momentum and keep it going.

“We've been losing a couple of games in a row now, and it's never fun to go back in a locker room after a game and it's always quiet and no music's playing and the vibes are pretty down,” Edouard Julien said. “It's good to be back on the winning side.”

Paddack took advantage of Chicago’s league-worst offense by striking out 10 across seven shutout frames, his first career outing in which he reached double digits in strikeouts without issuing a walk. He completed seven frames for the first time since July 2, 2021, and struck out his most batters since June 18, 2021.

That was a particularly needed outing considering the Twins’ completely depleted rotation depth, with a struggling Louie Varland demoted to Triple-A St. Paul earlier in the day. Paddack had entered the evening with an identical 8.36 ERA to that of Varland -- and the Twins needed him to be a more consistent force in their rotation.

“I felt like myself out there,” Paddack said. “To be able to bounce back and look myself in the mirror knowing nothing is wrong, I don’t need to change who I am or what I did, tonight kind of speaks for itself.”

Several hitters in the Twins’ lineup also needed a get-right game like that on Monday. Kepler arrived as a needed reinforcement to a depleted position player group, and immediately tripled his hit total for the season by knocking a two-out RBI double in the first inning and an RBI single in the third, turning around a 1-for-20 start before he went to the IL on April 9.

Edouard Julien also needed this three-hit game after his frustration boiled over to the point that he uncharacteristically took extra swings in the batting cages after Sunday’s game. He bounced back with a single, double and homer, all on fastballs -- finally getting back to one of his strengths that had eluded him so far this season.

Willi Castro added two hits and Trevor Larnach continued his string of solid at-bats since his callup with a walk and RBI double as the Twins got at least one hit in six of their eight offensive innings.

“We kind of went through something similar last year, and we caught fire, and we ended up being at the top of the whole totem pole in offensive numbers,” Kepler said. “It turns around very quickly. You see guys struggle, and suddenly, they're on fire for months, weeks.”

This marked the first time since April 3 in which the Twins scored more than four runs outside extra innings -- and they picked a good time for it.

“It wasn’t one guy doing it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was almost everybody that was out there was hitting the ball hard and it seemed like they had a good plan. I couldn’t be more pleased. This is what we’ve been working toward. We want more of it.”