MINNEAPOLIS — New-age manager Rocco Baldelli went old-school on Throwback Thursday: For the first time in his career, he called for two sacrifice bunts — in one inning, no less. And they wound up fueling the put-away inning in the Twins' seventh consecutive victory, 7-1 over the Tigers at Target Field.
What a day of firsts: Gilberto Celestino drove in his first run of the season, collected the first two-hit game of his career, made one of the best catches of his career and laid down the first of two sacrifice bunts in the fifth inning, each of which resulted in a throwing error by flustered Detroit catcher Tucker Barnhart.
And when those mistakes loaded the bases, Carlos Correa provided his first extra-base since April 12, driving in all three runs by drilling a line drive over left fielder Willi Castro's head.
The Twins closed a remarkable six-game homestand — they arrived home in last place in the AL Central, and depart again in first place by at least 2 1/2 games — by sweeping all six and outscoring the White Sox and Tigers, 34-12. They have scored at least five runs in their last five games, and allowed their opponents to do so not even once. And their defense continues to be air-tight.
Perhaps the only bad news on Thursday was the pain that Bailey Ober felt in his groin midway through the fourth inning. The right-hander, who stranded six Tigers on base through three shutout innings, left the game with two outs in the fourth, after surrendering the Tigers' first run after 13 scoreless innings.
Cody Stashak relieved Ober and recorded four outs, earning his first victory since Sept. 16, 2020.
With Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Gary Sanchez on the bench to protect their health in the low-40s chill, the Twins still victimized Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal with small ball. Three of their first four hits Thursday didn't leave the infield, nor did the back-to-back bunts in the fifth inning; in each case, Barnhart fielded the ball and threw it into the back of Twins baserunners Celestino and Jorge Polanco. Those matching misplays set up Correa's sudden breakout.
The shortstop, enduring an 0-for-12 skid as he stood in the batter's box, worked the count to 3-2, then pounced on a fastball left in the middle. Castro was slow to get back on the ball, allowed it to carom over his head and back toward the infield, then mishandled it as he tried to pick it up. By that time, Correa was on third base — credited with a double and Castro's error — and his slump was apparently over.
Correa singled his next two times at the plate, his first three-hit game of his Twins career.
Minnesota now departs for Florida, where they open a three-game series against Tampa Bay on Friday.