Carlos Correa walked into the batting cage behind the Twins dugout during the seventh inning on Thursday and found the pitching machine had been tampered with. The arm is raised very high, and the computer is programmed to throw the left sliders.
Turns out, Ryan Jeffers was working on a very specific project.
“He said, ‘I’m going to hit Will Smith’s slider,'” Correa said, “and he’s got the high version.” “And when he came to bat, I said, ‘Will Smith’s going to throw him the slider, and he (Jeffers) has been hitting the slider for two innings already.'”
Smith did. Jeffers was ready.
The pinch hitter blew his first slider 427 feet into the second deck in left field, turning the tie game into a thrilling 7-5 Twins victory over the Rangers at Target Field.
“One of the best wins this year,” Correa said. “that was awesome.”
The Twins offense and Hall of Bulls were great on a night where the lately great Pablo Lopez wasn’t either. The longest scoreless streak of 19 innings in a right-hander’s career lasted just six pitches, as Marcus Simien made a changeup from middle to the left field bench.
And Lopez, who had not given up a run in his previous three appearances and who had not allowed a home run in August, surrendered three solo home runs and gave up five runs, which matches his total in his past six appearances. Corey Seeger and Liodie Taveras also homered, and Travis Jankowski hit a bases-loaded single and double-run in the third.
It turns out it doesn’t matter. The Twins hit four solo home runs to come back from 5-2, and in the eighth, fell victim to the Rangers, one of the best teams in the league, by three runs. Matt Woolner singled off the right field wall, Corea drove it home from the first by double hitting the center field wall, and with two outs, Jeffers finished the comeback with the Twins’ fifth inning home run.
“It’s one of those really cool moments where you go to your dugout and just share the emotion,” said Jeffers, who walked slowly over the first base line, then spun his bat as he started his home run. “It just kind of happens. You get to that moment, you know you’ve got it — the rest, you just kind of ignore it, and whatever happens, happens.”
What happened to the Twins was particularly gratifying, given that the Guardians lost two games to the Dodgers earlier in the day, which restored the Twins’ MLS Central Division lead to six games. Texas lost its seventh straight game and only took one game in the AL West ahead of both Houston and Seattle.
And if Lopez’s scoreless streak is history, perhaps Josh Winder started it. The second-year long reliever stopped the Texas offense for three innings after Lopez’s departure, giving up only a pair of harmless walks, perhaps his best outing of the season. Griffin Jakes pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season.
“If you like good play and good drama, this was a very good day,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We had to fight. (The Rangers) are a tough team. They put a lot of pressure on you. But we just managed to get the upper hand. Our guys got the upper hand over and over again.”
It turned into a fireworks display, starting with the longest home run of Kyle Farmer’s career—a 435-foot rocket on the second floor above the bullpens—in the second inning. Michael A. Taylor returned two runs from Rangers starter Andrew Heeney, one to center field immediately, and Royce Lewis hit one against reliever Chris Stratton.
Taylor’s big night gives the Twins a franchise-record 23 hitters in the ninth, 15 of them by Taylor. What does that do to the crime?
“It wins ball games for you,” Baldelli said. “He’s not the same guy he was when he walked in the door. He’s got a real hit at bat. And when he’s looking for a pitch, he gets it.”
Just like Jeffers.
“I have enough confidence in myself, first and foremost,” said the catcher. “I finally feel confident in what I’m doing.” “And that kind of leads to them trusting me in those situations.”