After a slow start, Nick Gordon delivers the clutch again as the Twins win in 12

CHICAGO — After what happened in his previous plate appearance on Thursday, Nick Gordon was hoping for another opportunity to make an impact. When he did, the Twins service man didn’t lose his chance.

Two innings after coming out on a bunt attempt, Gordon helped the Twins end a long and frustrating day at the plate with a breakout rally. Gordon and Jorge Polanco each had hits and the Twins avoided a series sweep with a 7-3 12-inning win over the Chicago White Sox at guaranteed rate field.

Gordon doubled in a run and later Polanco scored two more in a five-inning rally for the Twins, whose relievers issued five intentional walks as they navigated the Chicago formation successfully for five innings .

“When something like (the pop out) happens and you have another opportunity, it fuels you,” Gordon said. “I definitely thought about it. I really wanted to redeem myself and put us in a better position. I couldn’t get the job done there. I definitely didn’t want to do that twice.

Given the choice, the Twins might prefer to take a different path to victory than the one they used on Thursday. Although they got the job done, nothing about Thursday was easy.

White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito blocked the Twins hitters throughout, forcing them to expand the area against his four-seam fastball and slider. Giolito faced three on the minimum in five scoreless innings and was only hit by a solo homer from Carlos Correa in the sixth inning, a blast that extended the home run streak tied for the team franchise to 16 games.

When Byron Buxton homered Reynaldo López with two outs in the eighth inning, it was the Twins’ third hit of the game. They wouldn’t get another one until Gordon doubled at 12th, a streak of 15 batters.

Gordon was part of the silent stretch of the offense. Heading into the 10th inning with auto-runner Willi Castro at second base, Gordon was asked to sacrifice the runner. He came out and the inning ended two batters later when Correa’s hard one-hopper resulted in a double play.

But with the Twins bullpen dodging and dodging its way through Chicago’s lineup, Gordon was given another chance. This time he came to bat with a run on an error by Tim Anderson, two on board at 12th and no outs. Facing left-hander Sammy Peralta, who was making his major league debut, Gordon ripped a four-seam fastball to the wide left center. Although center fielder Luis Robert Jr. was on the move, his lunging effort wasn’t enough to stop Gordon’s 104.5 mph liner from finding the grass for a brace and a 4-2 lead.

“It was a very meaningful moment for the game and probably for him personally,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You need someone to get up there and field a somewhere, just do better than the pitcher. And it’s hard. It’s hard to do. He got up there and hit him so hard he got the gap. And then it’s gone. »

Was it ever.

After struggling with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, the Twins opened the game. Correa followed a walk from Max Kepler with a scoring walk to make it 5-2. Then Jorge Polanco scored two more points to put the contest out of reach.

Gordon’s brace was his third highlight of the series and is another sign he could be about to burst after a rocky start to the season. The team’s most improved player in 2022, Gordon is off to a 6-for-52 start through last Wednesday despite a fair amount of hard contact.

Sports Info Solutions research suggested Gordon’s contact should have resulted in eight more visits. Instead of hitting .269, Gordon was hitting .115 with a .324 OPS. Despite his struggles and a healthy dose of bad luck, Gordon remained focused in the cage with the Twins hitting the coaches.

The work has paid off since Sunday, when Gordon scored a single in one run and a flat in another. He blasted a game-tying solo homer in Tuesday night’s loss and gave the Twins a short-lived lead with a homer in Wednesday’s loss.

“He worked hard to have a good rhythm and to be able to help us win games,” Correa said. “He didn’t start the way he wanted, but for sure he worked hard and got better every day. You’ve seen that streak. He gave us some big hits and that’s thanks to him that we won this game.

Gordon said the key, as always, is a positive mindset. Although Robert had exceptional speed and nearly ran over Gordon’s understudy, the Twins’ 2014 first round mostly believed the ball wouldn’t be caught despite his previous bad luck.

“I know I hit really well, so I knew he was going to have to make a great play,” Gordon said. “Thank God he passed it.”

Memories with Carlos

Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday’s game, Correa was asked if he had heard the comments made Wednesday night by White Sox reliever Keynan Middleton, who hit the shortstop to end the game and l then called him a “cheater”.

“I’ve heard worse,” Correa said. “I’m just glad he’s doing well and playing well and he can take care of his family. Obviously he’s tough. He’s improving and that’s why he’s offering them situations. high leverage. I’m just glad he’s back here to play and support his family.

A key member of the Houston Astros in 2017, the disdain from players and fans is nothing new for Correa.

White Sox reliever Joe Kelly pitched at Correa and Astros teammate Alex Bregman in 2020, earning the pitcher an eight-game suspension that was reduced to five. Opposing fans are also constantly inundating Correa with “cheating” chants for his involvement in an electronic sign-stealing scandal that rocked Major League Baseball.

A Los Angeles Angels pitcher from 2017 to 2021, Middleton commented on Correa uninvited.

“I knew I was going to face Correa, and I don’t like him. So that was pretty cool,” Middleton said. “I like that. I enjoyed that very much. …I mean, he’s a cheater.

After congratulating Middleton on his return to the big leagues, Correa almost gave him a souvenir as well. The shortstop’s sixth-inning home run landed in the stands just above the covered portion of the bullpen where White Sox relievers often sit.

The end-of-round strategy pays off

Baldelli’s late game tactics provided a clear picture of his desire to win Thursday and avoid a series sweep. Not only did their batters attempt several unsuccessful sacrificial bunt plays in the extra innings, but the Twins’ pitching staff tied a club record by batting out five intentional walks.

Starting with Jhoan Duran’s free pass to Robert in the eighth inning, the Twins relievers have intentionally walked batters in four straight innings. Robert was the recipient of two intentional walks as the Twins clearly preferred to face Hanser Alberto in critical spots. Andrew Benintendi was walked in the 10th and 12th innings in order to face pinch runner Billy Hamilton instead.

Eloy Jiménez received the other pass.

“It was a must win for us, especially for Cleveland,” Correa said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one and we did.”

The scheme worked perfectly as the batters behind each freebie were out, including three strikeouts.

The reliever twins allowed one unearned run in five innings pitched. Emilio Pagán, who took the win by striking out two in a scoreless 11th, delivered the last pass when Baldelli went for Hamilton against Benintendi with two outs and a runner at second. Pagán retired Hamilton to send him to the 12th inning.

“You have to manage the roster and they definitely have guys you don’t want to let fight, especially in this situation,” Pagán said. “It’s cool, he showed the confidence in us to be able to get into the area when we have to.”

Veteran reliever Brock Stewart faced the biggest challenge as Baldelli asked him to intentionally load the bases with one out in the 10th inning. With Jiménez in the lead, Baldelli opted to walk him and Stewart retired Anderson. Robert was walked to load the bases but Stewart pulled out Alonso and Andrus to leave them loaded.

“We’re not looking for situations to do that and just put people on the base,” Baldelli said. “It makes it harder for relievers in a way. They really need to step up and I think it’s a good challenge for them when we put them in those situations. Today I think it made sense to do it and the guys reacted well. … We will intentionally walk as many guys as we have to, to win a baseball game.

The five free passes were two shy of the American League record of seven set by the 1933 New York Yankees and the 1962 California Angels.

(Photo of Gordon after hitting a home run on Tuesday: Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today)

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