Twins’ offense pulls away late for ninth straight win

CHICAGO — It seems as if there’s been a new hero every night of the Twins’ lengthy winning streak — a sign that they’re getting contributions from up and down the roster. But on Tuesday, they went back to a formula that worked the night before: Byron Buxton gets on, Max Kepler brings him home.

For the second night in a row, Kepler drove in Buxton in the ninth inning — this time with a sacrifice fly — to lift Minnesota to victory. The 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field was the Twins’ ninth straight, the first time the club has accomplished that feat since 2008.

“I feel like if we’re in a situation where we need just solid contact of some kind, put the bat on the ball, do something, just something happen — he’s just making things happen out there,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Kepler.

Kepler returned from the injured list on April 22, the day the winning streak began. He was just 1 for 20 on the season at the time of his return. But he drove in three runs that night and hasn’t stopped hitting since.

The Twins’ (16-13) right fielder also stole a base in the sixth, drawing a throw to second base that allowed catcher Ryan Jeffers to steal home uncontested, a run which made the score 4-3 at the time.

Kepler, along with Carlos Correa and Jhoan Duran, both of whom came off the injured list this week in Chicago, all played big roles in Minnesota’s win on Tuesday.

In just his second game back from an intercostal strain, Correa tied the game in the eighth with a two-out single on the first pitch of his at-bat off White Sox (6-24) reliever Jordan Leasure. The all-star shortstop then scored what was the go-ahead run at the time.

“When you have that type of injury, it’s really hard to let go, to fully let go on your swing,” Correa said. “In that at-bat, I just said. ‘Just swing hard, (expletive) it.’ You know what I mean? I just let my body flow, I loaded early and I just tried to swing as hard as I could.”

He also saved a run earlier in the game, cutting down his good friend and old teammate Martín Maldonado trying to score from first base in the third. Correa received a throw from center fielder Willi Castro and showed off his arm on his throw to Jeffers, who made an acrobatic tag to complete the play.

“I was surprised Maldy was trying to go from first to home. He never did it when I was playing with him. I don’t know why he’s doing it now that he’s (37),” Correa said of his friend with a smile.

A run scored that inning, though starter Simeon Woods Richardson was able to minimize the damage against him despite giving up four hits. He would give up one more run, unearned, before his departure after he ran into trouble again in the fourth.

“You’re going to have really good outings, you’re going to have crappy outings and you’re going to have outings that you work through,” Woods Richardson said. “It’s kind of what I had to do today. Luckily, the offense is amazing right now.”

That offense rallied back both after Kody Funderburk allowed a two-run home run in the fifth and again after Cole Sands allowed a game-tying home-run in the eighth. Minnesota reliever Griffin Jax was unavailable after his recent usage and the Twins were trying to stay away from Brock Stewart, as well.

And while Baldelli’s plan wasn’t to use Duran in a save situation his first game back, Minnesota’s now-healthy closer delivered, as usual, sealing the team’s ninth-straight win.

His reward?

As the team’s infielders huddled together to pose for a fake photo as part of a new post-game celebration, Duran had to act as the photographer.

“Because he only got three outs, so he doesn’t deserve to be in the picture with the guys that played nine innings,” Correa joked.

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