Twins battle for doubleheader sweep in Detroit

DETROIT >> The Twins’ lineup is missing three of its starters. The Twins’ bullpen is missing some of its top arms. The Twins’ rotation depth has been tested by injury, too.

It’s an unenviable situation to be in at any point but especially this early in the season. With star shortstop Carlos Correa the latest to land on the injured list, the Twins know it’s going to take contributions from up and down the roster to succeed in his absence.

That’s exactly what they got on Saturday, using a pair of full team efforts to take both games off a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Twins won the first game 11-5 in 12 innings behind a career day from Joe Ryan and an impressive showing from Ryan Jeffers. Minnesota followed it up by taking the second game 4-1 behind six solid innings from their 27th man, Simeon Woods Richardson, and a couple home runs.

“We needed that. We needed that as a team, we needed that as a fanbase, we needed that as everybody,” Jeffers said. “From us, the players, to the coaches, to the fans, we needed to do that just to get a little bit of mojo back.”

Jeffers, who reached base three times in the second game of the doubleheader, spent most of the first on the bench. When he did get his opportunity, he did his best to will the Twins (6-7) to victory.

His pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning tied the first game. His RBI single in the 11th then gave the Twins the lead, and after they lost that lead, his battle through a 12-pitch at-bat ended with a ground ball hit towards third that got past Zach McKinstry and resulted in three runs scoring.

“Sick,” Ryan said. “He works so hard and he loves those big moments and delivers often. … It was just great to see him have more success.”

His eighth-inning home run meant that Ryan, whose stuff was near its best, was not tagged with a tough-luck loss as it appeared he might be. The Twins starter struck out a career-high 12 batters, fanning all nine of the Tigers (8-6) in the starting lineup during his outing.

He was constantly ahead of the Tigers, pounding the strike zone and collecting 20 swing-and-misses in his effort.

“That was probably one of Joe’s most dominant two or three starts of his career,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “ … He was untouchable for long stretches in the game. … We’re sitting here with two wins right now but at the time Joe was on the mound, we had no wins today, and he was the guy who really set us up for a really nice day of baseball.”

But though he was sharp all day, he left trailing after giving up a two-run home run in the first inning to Kerry Carpenter — both runs were unearned after third baseman Jose Miranda made a throwing error earlier in the inning — and another run in the sixth, his final inning of work.

The bullpen took over from there, giving up two runs (though none earned) in the final six innings of work. Woods Richardson, making just his third career major league outing, helped give the worn-out bullpen a bit of a rest in the second game, throwing six strong innings.

He gave up just a run and retired the last 14 batters he faced, collecting his first career win along the way, which earned him a game ball and a beer shower from his teammates.

“I was just trying to execute pitches to give the team the best chance to win, honestly,” Woods Richardson said. “Execute everything, try to get early outs, early swings and contact.”

He got just enough support in the game, using a Byron Buxton sacrifice fly and home runs from Edouard Julien and Willi Castro to help send the Twins to their second win of the day.

And though it’s April, though it’s still early in the season, the significance of the day was not lost on the Twins.

“When you lose a significant portion of your top guys, top names, it’s easy to get down if you let yourself. But our guys did not,” Baldelli said. “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.”

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