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The twins’ trading trio “like having a cheat code”

MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton knew he just didn’t want to face Jorge López’s nasty stuff again — and so, when they were locker mates at the All-Star Game two weeks ago, the Twins center back joked with the Baltimore of the time. closer: “We’ll get you.”

Boy, is he glad the Twins followed his prediction – and López’s business will now be a problem for future opponents Minnesota.

The true impact and success of the Twins’ four trades before Tuesday’s 5:00 p.m. deadline will be determined in the weeks and months to come, with the real test still looming on the horizon, they hope, in October. But it certainly didn’t hurt when three of their four acquisitions – Sandy León, Michael Fulmer and López – paved the way to a 4-1 win over the Tigers at Target Field on Wednesday, earning a series win at their first test as a new-look unit.

The Triumph featured the elements that the Twins seemingly lacked in many games over a flat span of weeks leading up to Deadline – namely, timely hitting and locking performance. The new guys were right in the middle of that.

“We’ve seen guys with electric stuff,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Before the trade deadline, a game like Wednesday’s would have posed a precarious challenge for Baldelli and pitching coach Pete Maki, who would have had to navigate four relief innings without Griffin Jax, who pitched Monday and Tuesday. With Fulmer and López now in the mix, the bullpen has a lot more length – and the Twins could hardly have had a more painless path to the finish.

“It was like having a cheat code with some video game players, and they did it,” said Twins starter Ryan, who stoked nine Tigers in five innings. “Pretty electric.”

Fulmer came in for the sixth inning after Ryan’s exit and allowed former teammate Harold Castro a single before pulling him out to face the minimum in the inning. Caleb Thielbar, fresh off the disabled list, knocked out three right-handed hitters in the seventh. Jhoan Duran, pushed back to the eighth, launched a first step for a goalless frame.

Then enter López, who gave the Twins one of their smoothest ninth innings in quite some time by catching two rushes and one strikeout on seven windy pitches, his lead hitting 98.2 mph. It was almost unheard of in four seasons to see Baldelli say adamantly that a certain reliever would get the ninth inning — but he said López’s after Tuesday’s trade. It’s easy to see why.

“We saw elite sliders from Fulmer,” Baldelli said. “We saw López come out and have as dominant and clean round as you want to see. It’s exciting to give these guys the ball, to let them do their thing there.

“They were back-end guys on their team, so they know how to get dirty when the critical moment comes,” Buxton said.

And perhaps the Twins’ least-heralded move amid their flurry on Tuesday was their minor league trade with the Guardians, of all teams, which brought León to the Twin Cities in exchange for Triple-A right-hander Ian Hamilton – and that, too, paid immediate dividends when the lightweight veteran scored an RBI brace down the left-field line in his first plate appearance for his new club, putting the Twins ahead for good in the second inning.

León is likely a stopgap until Ryan Jeffers heals his broken right thumb and returns to the catching rotation, possibly in September. And although the 33-year-old only had eight MLB appearances in 22 before joining the Twins, he was one of the backers in Boston’s 2018 World Series championship run and is expected to provide a a firm hand to the pitching staff.

Clutch doubles will also help.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win, hit or catch,” León said. “I know receiving is my strong point, but I feel good hitting. I’m going to stick with my approach, get a good shot to hit, and try to help my team out there too.

The Twins hoped to have pressed all the right buttons immediately after Tuesday’s trade deadline – and it’s always nice to get immediate validation.

“I like going out there, being fast,” López said. “If not, we fight. We were lucky to get our first. Tomorrow is another.”

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