The Twins returned from a week-long road trip on Friday night to play the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. The Twins brought home a .202 team batting average and having scored two or fewer runs in seven of 13 games.
Manager Rocco Baldelli was in his office before the game and said: "It is early, but the games go by and you still have to find a way to win ballgames … even if you're not going to be hitting the ball around the ballpark, not be as locked in as you want to be."
The Twins found a way to win the first of 19 vs. the division favorite in extremely weird fashion.
Chicago was leading 1-0 into the bottom of the eighth, and Kendall Graveman struck out Miguel Sano and retired Nick Gordon.
Two outs, no runner, and then Ryan Jeffers, without an extra-base hit this season, hit a long drive to left-center that hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double.
That brought up Luis Arraez, the Twins' best hitter, and he earned a walk. While that was being done, Jeffers went to third on a wild pitch.
And then came the chaos: Carlos Correa chopped a ball into the shortstop hole. It was going to be a tying hit. The late throw went past first baseman Jose Abreu. He then made a throw into no-man's land, and Arraez was able to scramble home for a 2-1 Twins lead.
After that, all it took was a 34-pitch save from Emilio Pagan in the top of the ninth. That adventure finally culminated after a 3-2 count to Jake Burger with the bases loaded and two outs.
Plate umpire Bill Welke gave a borderline pitch to Pagan and the Twins had a two-game winning streak, to go with Thursday's 1-0 victory at Kansas City.
Baldelli's right. When you can't hit, you have to find a way.
The hitting hero, Jeffers, was not in the lineup until a few minutes before the first pitch. The other catcher, Gary Sanchez, was scratched and Jeffers was inserted at No. 9 in the order.
Baldelli was insisting that the Twins won't need such zany dramatics to scratch out victories — not all season, anyway.
"We've seen some good swings … but I think it's more a timing thing," he said. "The shorter spring training didn't really help. We're seeing this all around baseball.
"I have a lot of faith in what our guys do, how they do it and their ability. They have a ton of ability. They'll get it going."
Byron Buxton had returned as a designated hitter after a five-game absence on Thursday. Anyone who assumed that would mean Buxton would be in the lineup again hasn't been paying attention to this current Twins operation for the past several years.
They were using an "abundance of caution" before it became the corporate battle cry in dealing with COVID-19.
Gordon was in center field for the fifth time in seven games since Buxton's minor injury. The other two starts went to Gilberto Celestino, a righthanded hitter, although not much of one.
The Twins made Gordon the fifth overall selection in the 2014 draft out of high school, with the idea that he would be a big-league shortstop within a few summers.
Injuries and illness helped delay his arrival in the big leagues until May 6, 2021. By then, he was deemed a utility player, with 29 starts in center field, six in left field, and 15 in the infield.
He could run. He could slap a hit. He could make most plays. The Twins had him written in for a roster spot when delayed spring training started in March, particularly when they decided to start the season with a three-player bench.
And then came Buxton's first injury and the cry went out: "Once again, they don't have a real backup."
How about Gordon?
Pregame, Baldelli said that Gordon was getting "more and more comfortable" with center field.
Comfortable to the point he could be Option A to fill in when Buxton is missing in center. That has been an important task for the Twins for the previous four seasons, when Buxton has played 215 of 546 games.