For a moment, let’s go back to June 2012.
To a day when Terry Ryan was general manager of the Twins, Target Field had just turned two years old, and a kid from Puerto Rico was showing Twins brass what he can do on a baseball field.
One of about a dozen MLB draft prospects, the 17-year-old impressed onlookers with not only his throwing ability but his bat. He smacked pitches into all fields. Most of all, he displayed a knack for rocketing pitches into the right-center field stands.
It’s the very same spot that one ball reached Wednesday, ending the Twins season. And it was sent there by that very same player, eight years later.
Carlos Correa, who went first overall in the 2012 MLB draft, hit a solo home run 430 feet to that favorite Target Field spot of his. It gave the Astros a 2-1 lead in the seventh. Correa had held the Twins to a single run with a throw home in the fifth to get an out.
Thanks in large part to those two plays, Houston won 3-1. It swept the Twins and will advance to the American League Division Series after a sub-.500 regular season and an offseason in which the Astros were vilified for the sign-stealing scandal.
“I know a lot of people are mad,” Correa said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here, but what are they going to say now? We’re a solid team. We played great baseball. We won a series on the road, in Minnesota, so what are they going to say now?”
Plenty about Correa, at least on Wednesday. His solo home run was his 12th in postseason play. Correa also reached the postseason 50-hit club in this game with a hit earlier.
And he’s 26. The same age as Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who didn’t start Wednesday because the Twins said he was not feeling well enough. He was dealing with concussion-like symptoms coming into the series.
Buxton, whom the Twins drafted one pick after Correa in 2012, did see action in the final game of the season. Only as a pinch runner, though. And the Astros got him out on a pickoff play in the eighth.
While Buxton was mostly absent, his draft classmate was busy showing why he went first overall in 2012.
The home run was certainly impressive, but don’t discount the throw he made to prevent the Twins from taking the lead. Nelson Cruz blasted a double to left field, scoring one runner, but the Twins tried to bring in Luis Arraez from first as well. It’s a decision Correa said postgame he didn’t understand. Outfielder Kyle Tucker tossed the ball to Correa, who made the relay throw in time to home.
“He has a cannon,” Tucker said. “He is so accurate. He’ll get it there. So all we worry about is trying to get it to Carlos and let him do the rest. It worked out today, too.”
Just imagine if it had been for the Twins, not against them. Maybe the 18-game postseason victory drought would be over. But then again, the Twins never had the chance to draft him; he was gone before they picked Buxton.
Gone, like Correa’s home run Wednesday, like his blasts in that 2012 Target Field workout, like the Twins’ once promising 2020 season.