Korecky, Clark pace Twins' win
Hurler, defensive replacement deliver in extra innings
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Bobby Korecky hasn't been given many opportunities to make an impact during his short time up with the Twins.He certainly made one on Monday night. Korecky and his former Triple-A Rochester teammate Howie Clark shared the spotlight for the Twins in a four-hour, 12-inning, throw-everything-you've-got-at-them, 7-6 walk-off victory over the Rangers at the Metrodome. While it was Clark who ended up getting the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 12th off Rangers right-hander Franklyn German, much of the credit for the victory belongs to Korecky. The pitcher was a do-everything type player for the Twins on Monday night, getting the Twins out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th, delivering a big hit, and then pitching a quick 1-2-3 inning 12th to give the team one more chance to secure a victory. In the process, he showed the Twins just what kind of guts he possesses. "You have to prove yourself up here, and that was a big step for him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He showed us that he can get a lot of big outs. We've been slowly trying to get him innings and so forth, but he's going to be huge if he can continue to throw like that. That was a huge performance." Korecky's tale of getting to the big leagues is in itself a feel-good story. The pitcher came to the Twins as part of the trade with the Phillies that also brought Carlos Silva and Nick Punto to Minnesota in 2003 in exchange for Eric Milton. Korecky underwent Tommy John surgery less than two years later, and since he was not exactly a highly-touted prospect, Korecky admits that it was a time when he wasn't sure if his career would continue. He recovered from the operation and set a franchise record for saves in Rochester last season. His performance in Triple-A earned him a spot on the Twins 40-man roster, and eventually, a callup this April. He's a guy that his teammates have always rooted for, in part because he's not the type of dominating pitcher that gets to the big leagues on stuff alone. "He's got a big heart for one thing," Gardenhire said of Korecky. "He's not overpowering by any means, but he can locate a fastball and has a great slider. He can spin it up there and he isn't afraid. He doesn't back away from anybody." That included the situation that Korecky found himself in when he entered the game on Monday night in the 11th inning of a game knotted at 6. With the bases loaded and one out, the right-hander was set to face the top of the Rangers' order. First up was Ian Kinsler, whom Korecky got to pop up to right field. Michael Cuddyer, who had moved back to right after making his first career start in center, caught the ball and made a strong throw back into the infield to force the runner at third to stay put. Michael Young, a career .302 hitter with a knack for getting big hits, was next up. Again, Korecky didn't back down, getting Young to strike out swinging. That was just the start of the night for Korecky. Having lost their designated hitter earlier in the game when they shifted Brendan Harris from the DH slot into the infield, the Twins were forced to have Korecky bat second in the bottom of the 11th. It marked his first Major League plate appearance, and first trip to the plate since a Spring Training game with the Phillies in 2003. Before heading into the on-deck circle, Korecky had a quick chat with his skipper. "He said to take the first pitch," Korecky said "And then he asked me, 'What do you think?' I said if I got a first-pitch fastball, that's a decent pitch to swing at. He said, 'Go ahead,' and that's what I got." Just the sixth Twins pitcher to bat in an American League game since the DH rule went into effect in 1973, Korecky became the first ever to record a hit. He laced the first pitch he saw off right-hander Frank Francisco into right field for a single. "When I got the hit and started running, I thought, 'This is great,'" Korecky said. "Then I realized the right fielder could possibly throw me out if I don't hurry up here. I would have never heard the end of that, so I just tried to hustle to first base and go from there." Things didn't play out exactly as Korecky hoped, however. His wish to score from second base on a key play didn't happen, as the Twins loaded the bases with one out, but were unable to get a big hit. Instead, Korecky headed out to the mound for his second inning of work, and this time recorded three quick outs to send the Twins' hitters back up to the plate Gardenhire's options for players to use by that point were limited. The club had called upon nearly every player on its active roster except the four other starting pitchers and right-handed reliever Brian Bass. "It's not fun to run out of players," Gardenhire said. "But when you are trying to win a ballgame, sometimes you just have to run people up there and do the best you can." That almost meant using another starting pitcher in the contest, except not in the way most would envision. Livan Hernandez, who showed off his skills with the bat on Saturday, when he went 2-for-3 in his Interleague start against the Rockies, was on deck when Clark came to the plate in the 12th inning. However, the pitcher's services would ultimately not be needed. With runners on first and second and one out, Clark lined a double to center that fell just over the outstretched reach of Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton. The winning run scored, and the career journeyman, who just joined the Twins on Saturday, had his first-ever walk-off hit in the Major Leagues. "It's always great to get a win, and anytime you're a part of a win, it makes it that much better," Clark said. "It just shows that when the Twins call players up, they always use them, you know? And they put an emphasis on that in Rochester, that you are a step away and you'll play. So for us to have a contribution is pretty special." Just another typical victory. Well, of sorts. "I was like, 'What is going on here tonight? It must be a full moon,'" Gardenhire said of the craziness. "We pretty much threw everything out there, but a great win. An exciting win, and like I said, really good for a couple of young men."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.