Jim Souhan
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The Timberwolves have won five consecutive playoff games. The Twins' 12-game winning streak, tied for the second longest in franchise history, ended Sunday.

What do these winning streaks have in common?

They were made possible by two of the greatest acquisitions in Minnesota sports history.

On July 6, 2022, the Wolves traded a slew of players and draft picks for Rudy Gobert.

On Dec. 16, 2022, the Twins signed catcher Christian Vázquez to a three-year contract worth $30 million.

Gobert's defense and rebounding have contributed to the Wolves looking like contenders to win the NBA title.

How does Vázquez compare to the great Gobert?

The Twins' signing of Vázquez gave them an All-Star catcher. It's just that the All-Star catcher isn't named Vázquez.

Before the Twins signed Vázquez, their young catcher named Ryan Jeffers had an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .674 over three seasons. Since the Vázquez signing, Jeffers' OPS is .877. Vázquez's signing lit a flame under Jeffers that has burned like a California wildfire.

Jeffers led the 2023 Twins in OPS, and he leads the 2024 Twins in OPS (among players who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.) He also plays a premium defensive position.

If Jeffers keeps performing like this, he will deserve to play in the 2024 All-Star Game.

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The last time the Twins won 12 or more games in a row, they had one of baseball's best players, Kirby Puckett, in center field, Rookie of the Year Chuck Knoblauch at second base, Jack Morris leading their rotation, and Gold Glove-caliber fielders at first, second, short and in center.

The 1991 Twins were four years removed from winning a World Series, and they retained four core, championship players: Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Greg Gagne and Dan Gladden, as well as the same general manager and manager, in Andy MacPhail and Tom Kelly, respectively.

Any team winning a dozen or more games in a row, as the '91 Twins did, is a surprise, but that team had established, healthy talent and a championship pedigree.

The 2024 Twins have neither.

Before 2023, what was frequently and accurately said of the Twins was that they couldn't win without Byron Buxton in the lineup. The 2023 Twins changed that, winning the division and a playoff series with Buxton contributing almost nothing.

The 2024 Twins were thought to have a chance to succeed only if blessed with excellent health, yet they just won 12 straight games with their three most important position players — Buxton, Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis — spending part or all of the streak on the injured list.

This team put together a streak while relying on utility players and call-ups, from Willi Castro and Cole Sands to Jose Miranda and Simeon Woods-Richardson.

Jeffers' value is such that Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he pulled Jeffers aside recently to tell him to be ready to DH on the days he wasn't catching.

"He's done it," Baldelli said. "He's done it in a big way and in different ways. I grabbed him for a minute a couple of weeks ago and said, 'We're going to try to keep your bat in the lineup, so be prepared to catch and DH. Be ready for those at-bats because they're coming your way.' He said: 'I'm good with it. Whatever you need, put me in there and I'll be ready to go.' "

Baldelli said Jeffers' approach highlights the way good big league hitters make adjustments in games, and even within at-bats. "He's a nice case study for what that actually looks like,'' Baldelli said.

The Twins signed Vázquez to be their starter. By the midpoint of the 2023 season, the Twins lineup was looking woeful and Jeffers was out-hitting Vázquez. Jeffers becoming the primary catcher, along with the call-ups of Lewis, Matt Wallner and Edouard Julien, allowed the Twins to surge to a division title and win a playoff series for the first time in 21 years.

On Sunday, Jeffers hit his sixth home run of the season, then made a leaping, one-handed catch of the Superstition Sausage near the dugout.

He looked a little like Gobert.