Advertisement

Twins slide aside mistakes, injuries to sweep Tigers in doubleheader

DETROIT – On a day when they put another of their best players on the injured list, when they fretted about having enough healthy players to effectively compete, the Twins made a well-timed discovery on their roster.

Simeon Woods Richardson looks like a bona fide big leaguer.

The rookie, given an opportunity via a rainout makeup game to make his first major league start in nearly a year, took advantage by shutting down the Tigers for six solid innings, helping the Twins sweep Saturday's doubleheader with a 4-1 Game 2 victory. The Twins rode a seven-run 12th inning in the first game to pull away with an 11-5 victory.

"This is a good, important day for us. That's kind of how I'm looking at it, our players are looking at it," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who put Carlos Correa on the injured list before the game. "When you lose a significant portion of your top guys, your top names, it's easy to get down if you let yourself. But our guys did not."

Game 1 was an exercise in mistake-making, with the Tigers providing Minnesota with nine unearned runs, second most in Twins history. Ryan Jeffers made no mistakes, though, providing the Twins with the third pinch home run of his career to tie the game in the eighth inning, singling home a go-ahead run in the 11th and then bouncing a chopper between third baseman Zach McKinstry's legs to score three more runs in the 12th.

"Sick. He works so hard, and he loves those big moments and delivers often," admired Joe Ryan, who struck out a career-high 12 in his six-inning start. "It was just great to see him have more success and do his thing."

Baldelli ranked Ryan's start among the two or three most dominant of his career, marveling that "he was untouchable for long stretches in the game. They were having trouble even putting the ball in play."

Woods Richardson looked just as dominant in Game 2, in the process earning his first major league win. The righthander, acquired in 2021 from Toronto in the José Berriós trade, gave up a second-inning run on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly — but then proceeded to retire the final 14 hitters he faced.

As the specially designated extra player for a doubleheader, Woods Richardson must now be returned to Class AAA St. Paul, but after this start, that appears only temporary.

GAME 1: Twins 11, Detroit 5

GAME 2: Twins 4, Detroit 1

"It gives you a lot of confidence in him and therefore a lot of confidence in the state of what we have to work with. I'm virtually certain we're going to need Sim again, and he just proved [he's up to it]. Not just to us, he proved it to himself," Baldelli said. "That start's going to mean a hell of a lot to him when he returns."

It already does.

"I was just trying to get the team back in the dugout," Woods Richardson said after a clubhouse beer shower performed by teammates. "To get the first win underneath you, it's fun. It's always a dream come true. And you've got to be ready for more."

Edouard Julien and Willi Castro made Woods Richardson's task a little easier by hitting home runs to give him a lead. Julien's fourth homer of the year was blasted 400 feet into the Twins bullpen in left-center, and Castro's two-run shot traveled even farther, landing 413 feet away in right-center.

The win earned the Twins their first doubleheader sweep since Sept. 4, 2020, against the Tigers, after they failed to do so in their last 10. Their last sweep on the road came in Cleveland on Sept. 14, 2019.

"We needed that. We needed that as a team, we needed that as a fan base, we needed that as everybody," said Jeffers, the hero of Game 1. "From the players to the coaches to the fans, we needed to do that just to get a little bit of mojo back."

But it didn't come easy, not with a wild first game in which the Twins rallied from behind twice, then took advantage of some Tigers misplays to put the game away in the 12th inning. The biggest of that inning was not a physical error but a mental one by Detroit first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who fielded Christian Vázquez's sacrifice bunt with two runners on base.

Torkelson tried to get the lead runner at third base, but Byron Buxton easily beat the throw. Reliever Alex Lange then walked Austin Martin to force in the go-ahead run, and Jeffers, on the 12th pitch of his at-bat, hit a chopper that froze McKinstry, who allowed the ball to get past him, scoring three more runs.

The Tigers eventually put McKinstry on the mound to finish the game, and Matt Wallner clubbed a 61 mph pitch into the right field seats to finish off the big inning.

"It was good to see how we held ourselves. We saw some big [at-bats] from Jeffers — fouls off six pitches, gets that ball in play, scores three, I mean, that's huge," Martin said. "That's a game changer right there. … It was just a great team effort all around."