Resilient Twins rally from 4-run deficit to top Kansas City, win series

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MINNEAPOLIS — Carlos Correa opines if Thursday afternoon’s game occurred a few weeks back, the Minnesota Twins might not have emerged with a win.

Earlier this season, the Twins struggled when dealing with similar scenarios.

Chris Paddack’s mistakes were punished and the Twins’ offense looked lifeless against Kansas City Royals starter Daniel Lynch IV. The Twins trailed by four runs in the fourth inning and were in danger of settling for a disappointing split in a four-game series in which they won the first two contests.

But instead of folding, the Twins heeded many of the issues they discussed during a May 20 players-only meeting. Suddenly, the offense roared to life, and rather than settling, the Twins celebrated.

Ryan Jeffers blasted his first home runs in two weeks, Carlos Correa hit a go-ahead three-run triple and the Twins rallied for a 7-6 victory over the Royals in front of 22,542 at Target Field. In a season full of come-from-behind victories — the Twins have 13 on the season — this one featured the largest deficit for Minnesota. They won for the seventh time in nine games and will begin a nine-game road trip with a 31-25 record.

“Before that talk we had as a team, it felt like if we were down 2-0, we already lost the game,” Correa said. “There was no energy and no desire to come back. We said, ‘We can’t keep doing this. If we want to get to where we want to get, we’re going to be down for a couple of innings, and we have to figure out a way to fight back.’ I felt like we did that a lot since then. … We’re resilient enough and good enough to do that. We have to keep doing more of that.”

Correa did just about everything during a series he described as meaningful. Not only is Kansas City a division rival, they entered the series as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Correa praised the Royals’ pitching and their ability to execute the little things.

Though the Twins had their way in the first two games, Kansas City rebounded to win with ease on Wednesday and quickly found itself leading by four runs on Thursday. Vinnie Pasquantino blasted a two-run homer in the first inning, Bobby Witt Jr. singled in a run in the third and MJ Melendez crushed a solo home run in the fourth to make it 4-0.

But after a successful first trip through the lineup, Lynch struggled in round two. Correa reached on an error to start the fourth inning before Jeffers snapped a 52-plate appearance homerless streak with a 408-foot homer to left-center field.

Though they went on to load the bases with one out, the Twins couldn’t capitalize as Lynch escaped the jam. The Twins cut the deficit to one run an inning later when Jeffers struck again, belting a 406-foot solo homer to make it a 4-3 game.

“When we were on the 12-game win streak, it didn’t matter what hole we were in, we always were able to backdoor some games, come from behind, score late, whatever it might be to win those games,” Jeffers said. “Sticking with that mentality … is a sign of a good baseball team.”

With reliever Chris Stratton pitching, the Twins tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning on Max Kepler’s pinch-hit, RBI single. Correa followed walks of Carlos Santana and Manny Margot by getting ahead 3-1 in the count and driving a 3-1 fastball into the right-field corner for a two-out, opposite-field, three-run triple and a 7-4 lead.

“It’s a heck of a swing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He shoots it down the line, he’s feeling good physically and he’s running hard and he’s standing on third base. It was beautiful.”

For a player who only went 2-for-17 in the series, Correa made his impact felt in multiple ways. He doubled off Kansas City’s Cole Ragans in the first inning of Tuesday’s win, ahead of a key two-run single by Miranda.

Later Tuesday, Correa combined with Christian Vázquez to thwart a potential Royals rally, applying a slap tag to the backside of pinch runner Dairon Blanco, who was attempting to get the tying run into scoring position with a steal of second. Knowing that new rules prevent him from blocking the bag, Correa raced in front and to the right of second base to retrieve a quick throw from Vázquez and apply the tag as Blanco slid past.

“Carlos does a lot of things well,” Baldelli said. “The tag is one thing that he’s able to perform at a level where he’s creating outs with his glove hand when he’s receiving the ball. It’s not easy to do and it’s pretty special.”

Equally special is the way the Twins continue to demonstrate their resilience.

Paddack knows he wasn’t at his best on Thursday. The right-hander said he’s experiencing a dead-arm period but thinks he’s trending in the right direction. But after the Twins finally scored, Paddack responded with a quick zero in the fifth inning and recorded two more outs in the sixth before turning it over to the bullpen.

Caleb Thielbar got out of the sixth and was followed by Jorge Alcala and Griffin Jax, who posted electric innings. Though Jhoan Duran got himself into a jam in the ninth with a throwing error, he escaped and closed it out.

It was just the latest challenge the Twins faced in their first 56 games.

Correa, Kepler and Byron Buxton all have spent time on the injured list. Royce Lewis, who appears on track to return Tuesday in New York, has been on the field for all of three innings. Through injury or ineffectiveness, the Twins are already down two starting pitchers (Anthony DeSclafani and Louie Varland). The team’s offense was an abomination through the first 20 games of the season. And a bullpen that was expected to be one of the best in the league has experienced injuries to Duran, Brock Stewart and Justin Topa.

Yet here they are, six games above .500 with Lewis on the verge of returning.

“We have every piece that we need in this clubhouse to get back to where we want to get to,” Paddack said. “We’re having fun again as a group. We’re coming back. When we’re behind in games, we’re pitching well. We’re hitting the ball, putting pressure on the other team, and I think that that’s the difference.”

(Photo of Jorge Alcala celebrating his strikeout of Bobby Witt Jr. in the seventh inning: Matt Krohn / USA Today)

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