Finally firing on all cylinders, Twins sweep Giants

August 29th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins did what they needed to do during this series against the Giants, putting forth a pair of complete blowout wins and a clutch, come-from-behind triumph in 10 innings in the middle game to get their playoff hopes back on track.

Jake Cave matched a career high with four RBIs, while Carlos Correa and Max Kepler continued their red-hot homestands with multihit performances, as the Twins rode a five-run fifth inning to a 8-3 rout of the Giants to complete their second sweep of August, one in which they outscored San Francisco, 20-5, across the three games.

But after the Twins swept the Royals a week and a half ago, they couldn’t build on it, immediately dropping into a season-long, six-game losing streak against the Rangers and Astros.

They need things to be different this time. How can that come to fruition?

“It’s a good question and it’s probably a challenging question, but also, when you look around and see the guys playing like this, guys making big plays and having great at-bats, you expect the energy to carry over and the confidence to carry over,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

When the Twins began this series, they were on the brink of falling to .500 for the first time since late April, with their offense punchless in key situations again, unable to take advantage of mostly solid pitching. But their stars and depth players alike in the lineup have come to life over the past three days, and if there’s any reason to believe that the level of play could sustain this time, that’s probably it.

Particularly with Byron Buxton sidelined due to a right hip strain, the Twins have needed Correa to take control. He did that this series, contributing his first four-hit game with Minnesota on Saturday, as he reached base in nine of his 13 plate appearances throughout the series, including a homer and four RBIs.

“I think he’s taking control of the at-bats when he steps up to the plate,” Baldelli said. “I think he knows what he’s trying to do, and he’s simply doing it. He’s doing it over and over again.”

And if the club’s six-run inning Friday and five-run frame from Sunday are any indication, the depth of production has improved, including two huge days from Cave -- not even in the roster conversation at the start of the season -- who followed his game-tying single with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday with a two-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday and a lefty-on-lefty, two-run double to cap the five-run fifth.

Notably, Kepler also reached base in seven of his nine plate appearances -- including a ringing RBI double to the left-center gap in the five-run fifth -- after entering the series with a .367 OPS in 17 games this month.

"I think sometimes you get a little ahead of yourself and get too excited in certain settings,” Kepler said. “In reflecting on myself [with] runners on, there's times where I get excited, you know, and I swing at bad pitches. I think the team can do that, too, as a whole, and not just be patient and hunt their zone and their pitch that they can do damage with.”

Dating back to the start of the Twins’ sweep of the Royals at home from Aug. 15-17, a span that includes the six-game losing streak and a series against the powerful Astros, the club’s pitchers have allowed 36 runs in 13 games -- an average of 2.8 runs per game. They haven’t been the problem.

But for stretches of the season, the pitching has come through while the offense hasn’t; at other junctures, the bats have made noise while the arms couldn’t find success.

They’ve been waiting all season for those elements to sync up, trusting that their talent would overcome the issues -- and if this series is an indication of that, the Twins could be in better position to take advantage of series against the scuffling Red Sox and White Sox in the coming week to, at last, build on some success.

“I’d say this is probably one of our best series of the year,” Baldelli said. “I don’t know any other way to boil it down. The last three games are as good of a three games as you can expect a team to play. Whether we were putting up runs or playing close ballgames, staying in the game, pitchers coming in and doing their jobs, complete baseball. That’s what you want.”