Minnesota secures 2nd straight series win behind 4-run 3rd, Ober’s strong startJune 14th, 2023
MINNEAPOLIS — All season long, pitching has carried the Twins to a tenuous American League Central lead. Now, the bats finally look to be catching up — and Minnesota has started to trend up at the right time.
Wednesday afternoon was business as usual for right-hander Bailey Ober, who put forth another stingy six-inning start, and the offense once again strung together some timely hits in a four-run third inning to cash in for a 4-2 victory over the Brewers at Target Field.
It secured a two-game sweep of the border battle and the Twins’ second straight series victory as they emerged from their toughest stretch of the season. Now, they have a chance to make up some ground, with 10 of their 23 remaining games before the All-Star break slated to come against the Tigers and Royals.
“Some of it can be a momentum thing or a flow of energy amongst the team when a team feels good and there’s good vibes going on, and people are relaxed,” Trevor Larnach said. “Hitting can be contagious.”
Minnesota could have folded after falling below .500 with a 31-32 record following a sweep at the hands of the MLB-best Rays on Thursday. Instead, the Twins have answered with four wins in five games, spanning series victories over two contending teams in the Blue Jays and Brewers — and soon, they’ll have Byron Buxton back from injury, too.
The entire hitting group held a meeting to address the approach and collective outings as a unit during that series against the Rays, manager Rocco Baldelli said. Since then, the Twins have been more satisfied with the quality of at-bats that have led to Sunday’s strong effort against Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman, the late-inning comeback and game-long pressure on Tuesday, and the big inning on Wednesday.
“We’ve had some games where we’ve been really good, like today, about laying off pitches that are out of the zone, and just swinging at the right pitches is maybe one of the biggest parts of this game. And this task of going out there and producing runs,” Baldelli said.
“We’re seeing what we want to see. Keep it going. That’s all we can do. Keep it going.”
Carlos Correa’s turnaround at the plate has coincided with the rise of the Twins’ offense, which has scored 26 runs in its past four games after having been held to 10 runs across its previous seven games — with Correa’s grand slam in Toronto and walk-off homer on Tuesday looming large in that tally.
Correa added to that collection with a game-tying, two-run triple in that third-inning rally, pushing his recent surge to a .333/.407/.875 line in his past six games (a 1.282 OPS) with three homers, two doubles and a triple.
And as Correa has surged, so have the Twins, with the kind of patience and aggression from young hitters and veterans alike that often eluded them during that team-wide slump.
Following Edouard Julien’s one-out double off Brewers starter Colin Rea, Donovan Solano walked. And with two outs, Correa crushed the triple off the right-field wall before Larnach added an RBI double and Joey Gallo popped up an RBI single for the Twins’ second four-run inning in as many games.
“A lot of [the meeting] was approach and battling, and having collective good outings as a group, which you saw today in one inning and in Toronto at some points, too,” Larnach said. “That’s obviously what everybody wants in this game, especially during the season.
“It’s such a long year that you’ll see flows of everything. Slumps, good stretches, everything.”
And when the Twins have been pitching the way they have all season — with the second-best WAR as a staff, per FanGraphs, in baseball and the best starters’ WAR, by far — these good stretches of hitting, by and large, will correspond to winning stretches.
The Twins are 27-8 this season when scoring four or more runs, which, given the talent on this offense when fully healthy, shouldn’t be an outrageous ask.
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With Buxton soon to be healthy and a daunting stretch in the schedule featuring the Guardians, Padres, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Astros and Rays now behind them, there’s a prime opportunity here to continue building on that momentum, with their stars leading the way.
“There’s a different vibe,” Correa said on Tuesday. “There’s a different aura and level of confidence. You can see it when guys go up to the plate.”