Somewhat overlooked amid the excitement of the Twins' second consecutive walkoff victory Saturday was who actually recorded the W: Emilio Pagan.
The righthander quietly and quickly dispatched the three Baltimore hitters he faced in the ninth inning, striking out two as the Twins trailed 3-2. After Jose Miranda's walkoff single, Pagan came away with a 2-3 record.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli had mentioned putting Pagan into different situations, i.e. no late-inning leads, which Pagan has blown several times this year. Saturday was the first example of that, though Pagan mentioned it wasn't so different, since it was still a tight game nearing its end.
"I'm extremely confident, and I know I'm one of the best guys in that role," Pagan said, adding he respects whatever Baldelli decides. "… I'll try and help the team in whatever role moving forward."
Overall this season, Pagan has a 5.06 ERA with nine saves, five blown saves and four holds. He has been adamant that the quality of his pitches is solid, it's just the execution that's been amiss. And in the recent string of eight games against Cleveland — in which Pagan played a part in four of the five Twins losses — the reliever said most of the hits he gave up weren't hard ones, though they did prove costly.
"If you take the Guardians out of my season, I think I've got a legitimate shot at going to the All-Star Game," Pagan said. "… I think I've got an over 10 K per nine [innings], and if you take out the first month [10 walks in 8⅔ innings], my walks per nine are really, really low. It's hard to put your finger on it. I wish there was a better explanation for what's going on."
Baldelli said he was impressed with Pagan's bounce-back outing Saturday but said there's no specific plan of when to trust Pagan with bigger moments again.
"I truly believe that with the way I'm throwing it, when you look up at the end of the year," Pagan said, "I'm going to be one of the best relievers in baseball numbers-wise."
Trevor Megill threw one inning in his rehab outing with Class AAA St. Paul on Saturday, striking out one and tossing around 25 pitches in the game and bullpen. Baldelli said he plans to take Megill — who dealt with a right shoulder impingement — on the road as the team plays the White Sox and the Rangers this week, and Megill could return in the next couple days.
Fellow reliever Joe Smith will also travel with the team, though he isn't eligible to come off the 15-day injured list until late this week after he has recovered from upper trap tightness. Smith will throw another one or two bullpens so he can handle two- to three-inning outings once he returns.
Catcher Ryan Jeffers was not in the lineup for the second consecutive day Sunday after taking a warmup pitch off his right thumb ahead of Friday's game. Jeffers left that game early since the swelling made it hard for him to throw. But Baldelli said Jeffers could potentially start Monday in Chicago.
Now batting ...
Before Byron Buxton went up for his third-inning at-bat Saturday, he heard a familiar voice introduce him to the Target Field crowd: his 8-year-old son, Brixton. Brixton had been the kid announcer when he was around 5 years old, but his dad didn't play in that game.
"He was like, 'I hope I can do Louie [Arraez], you and [Carlos] Correa,'" Buxton said. "And for him, that was like his dream come true."
Brixton, who was hanging out with his dad in the clubhouse before Sunday's game, fielded congratulations from the likes of Baldelli and Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey. Brixton said Arraez, Correa and Pops are his favorite players, so he had fun pumping them up before their at-bats.
Brixton wasn't the only kid in the clubhouse. The Crets family — including 3-year-old Hudson — caught Buxton's walkoff homer Friday and visited Sunday on bench coach Jayce Tingler's invitation. They spoke to the hitters in the pregame meeting about the experience and had Buxton sign the ball.