Tuesday April 6, 2004
I think that it is fair to say that those who were in attendance at the Twins home opener last night got their money's worth!! Just under four hours, and 11 innings after Brad Radke threw the season's first pitch to former Twin Matt Lawton, Shannon Stewart drilled an 0-1 pitch into the left field bleachers to give the Twins a 7-4 win.
Last night, the Minnesota Twins opened their regular season with a home game against their division rivals, the Cleveland Indians. It certainly did not start out well for the home nine. The Twins fell behind 4-0 after 6 innings. Brad Radke gave up all 4 runs (although just two were earned), three on home runs. North Dakota native Travis Hafner hit two homers, and Jody Gerut hit one just off the glove of Shannon Stewart over the left field fence. CC Sabathia was great, unhittable. After giving up two first inning hits, Sabathia did not give up another hit through seven innings. He struck out 7 and never really even struggled.
But then came the 8th inning. The Twins saw that a new pitcher was coming in, in the person of Jose Jimenez, the former Rockies closer brought into Cleveland to set up for David Riske. As Al Newman said in his postgame radio interview, it was like "a breath of fresh air." Joe Mauer walked (for the 2nd time in the game) and Cristian Guzman singled to right field. With Guzman on the move, Shannon Stewart grounded back to the mound for the first out. With runners on second and third and Luis Rivas due to hit, the Twins sent left-handed Michael Ryan to the plate. Cleveland's manager, Eric Wedge, countered by bringing in lefty Scott Stewart. It was just what Ron Gardenhire wanted, and he replaced Ryan with Michael Cuddyer. On the second pitch, Cuddyer singled up the middle, knocking in the Twins first two runs. Doug Mientkiewicz then singled off Stewart. Corey Koskie came up and drilled a ground rule double over the fence in left centerfield, scoring Cuddyer and holding Mientkiewicz at 3B. Torii Hunter hit a single to left field, scoring Mientkiewicz and tying the game at 4. Jacque Jones and Matthew Lecroy struck out against the new Indians pitcher, Rafael Betancourt, to end the inning.
The game remained tied until the 11th inning. Jacque Jones led off with his 4th strikeout of the game. Matthew Lecroy walked (And Nick Punto pinch ran). Joe Mauer knocked his second hit, another single, and Punto advanced to third base. Cristian Guzman had another terrible at bat, striking out with a runner on third and less than two outs. However, after taking one strike, Shannon Stewart came through with a long, game winning homer off Chad Durbin to give the Twins the win.
Random Twins Thoughts from Opening Day
Joe Mauer's big league debut was more than anyone could have hoped for. First, his presence meant almost 2,000 tickets were needed for his friends and family. Second, he was pretty good behind the plate. And offensively, he showed much of what has made him baseball's top prospect. He was patient. He walked in his first and third plate appearances. Even in his second at bat, when he struck out, he worked it to a full count. Then, in his final two plate appearances, he had solid singles. So, as of right now, he is hitting .667 with an .800 On-Base Percentage... think he can continue at that pace?
Michael Cuddyer should be playing every day. He came off the bench as a pinch hitter and came up with a big hit. Then he went in to second base and made a couple of plays. The highlight was when Omar Vizquel doubled into the right field corner and Matt Lawton tried to score from first. Cuddyer turned a perfect relay throw to Joe Mauer and they got Lawton on a close play. I think that he should spell Luis Rivas once or twice a week at 2B. I think that he should give Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie weekly (or every 10 games) days off. Then, he should play RF and LF to give those guys an occasional day off. Doing that, he should play 4-5 times per week, which should mean about 400 at bats this season. I also think that based on their injury histories, it would be good for Mientkiewicz and Koskie to get some time off. Oh, and if he continues to play well, don't be surprised to see Cuddyer become the full-time 2B at some point in the season.
Yeah, Jacque Jones can't hit lefties. It is that obvious. Against Sabathia (one of the better lefties in baseball), Jones was clueless. He struck out twice and walked once (I know, that is crazy!). Then, he struck out in two later at bats. Don't worry, I still think he will have a great season. I just really think that he should get days off against some hard-throwing lefties. That said, it was Opening Night, and it is my opinion that you put your regulars in the starting lineup for the announcements, and Jacque Jones deserves that!
You will hear comments about Shannon Stewart saying things like 'Now we see why the Twins signed him long term,' and the like. I think Stewart is a great player. I have no problem (anymore) with them giving up Bobby Kielty for him. Just one quick note. In reality, we got Shannon Stewart, and a minor league pitcher, for Bobby Kielty, LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado. You hate to look at it like that, but in the offseason, Terry Ryan made the decision to re-sign Stewart instead of the two pitchers. It is way too early to judge whether that was the right decision or not. Guardado was unable to pitch on Sunday because he couldn't get his arm loose. Hawkins struggled as Spring Training came to an end. Shannon Stewart played Hero last night (he was 2-5 with the 3 run homer), and he will be a very important player throughout the season.
The bullpen, which has been much maligned throughout the offseason and in spring training, definitely came through for the team last night. After Radke gave up the four runs in 6 innings, the bullpen pitched five scoreless innings. Aaron Fultz (7th), Joe Roa (8th), JC Romero (9th), Joe Nathan (10th) and Juan Rincon (11th) each gave up at least one baserunner, but did not allow a run.
Twins fans in attendance were introduced to the entire roster in the pregame ceremonies. They were introduced to most of them later in the game. Of position players, only backup catcher Henry Blanco and pinch-hitter Jose Offerman did not play. Of pitchers in the bullpen, only Carlos Pulido did not see action.
Have I mentioned that Joe Mauer is going to be good?
Have I mentioned that Michael Cuddyer is going to be a star?
Have I mentioned that I am annoyed that I did not get to see the game because my cable provider chooses not to get Victory Sports?
Have I mentioned that Justin Morneau should be DHing?
Have I mentioned that Ron Gardenhire deserves a lot of credit for this win?
Summary - Good win for the Twins. Excellent comeback. The lone concern is that they will see a lot of left-handed pitchers within the AL Central (CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Brian Anderson, Darrell May, Jeremy Affeldt, Mark Buehrle, etc.) and that's not even mentioning the likes of Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. They will need to do something to put a stronger lineup against them.
What did you think of the game? Were you able to watch it? E-mail me.
More Opening Day Thoughts
Why is the NCAA Basketball Championship Game always on on Opening Night? I hear Connecticut beat Georgia Tech by a bunch, but who really cares? There was baseball on TV!!
The Tigers crush Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays. The Pirates beat the Phillies. The Brewers beat the Cardinals. It all just makes the saying, "It's just ONE game" a pretty true saying. One game out of a 162 game schedule. Remember when the Devil Rays beat the Yankees on Opening Day from Japan? What happened the next day? And, well, what will happen as the season progresses. The Tigers, Pirates, Brewers and Devil Rays will probably still be the team's with the four worst records at season's end. But the beauty of opening day is that even the fans from those cities can dream! Don't take that away from them!
Roy Oswalt is still my NL Cy Young choice. But Barry Bonds made him look like Scott Klingenback. Two doubles, and then the big 8th inning three-run homer to tie the game. I didn't even put Bonds in my top three in NL Batting Average in my predictions. But, I should alter those thoughts. Bonds will probably walk 180 times this year. Could this be the year that someone (he) hits .400??? Scarily, it may be possible.
If you were Jimy Williams, do you keep Roy Oswalt in with 2 on and 2 outs in the 8th inning with Bonds coming up? Well, Grady Little got fired from Boston for keeping Pedro Martinez in the game in a similar situation last fall. I think Oswalt is your best pitcher, so I have no problem with him keeping Oswalt in the game there. That said, it's the first game of the year, he had already thrown a lot of pitches, Brad Lidge was ready. There is no right answer. Really, there isn't. The manager's job is to make a decision. If Oswalt gets Bonds out, no one even talks about it. If he brings in Lidge, and Bonds hits the homer, Williams made the wrong decision by taking Oswalt out. It's a no-win situation for the manager. So, really, lay off!!!
Craig Wilson really, really can hit. He also really, really needs a haircut.
Kenny Rogers was Kenny Rogers last night. Keeping the Oakland hitters off balance for 7 innings and leaving the game with his team ahead 4-3. Sometimes, it isn't just about how hard you can throw and how many you can strike out. Sometimes it is just about giving your team a chance to win. Of course, the Rangers lost the lead after Rogers left the game with Oakland winning 5-4.
The fan in me would really like to see that Cincinnati outfield of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey and Austin Kearns. I want them all in the lineup 150 times this year. However, Griffey already sat out Opening Day. The team was saying that it was just precautionary, but other sources insist that he could be traded soon. All I know is that I don't think I want to see Wily Mo Pena swing any more!
Mendy Lopez? Mendy Lopez? He may not hit more than 2 or 3 more homers this season. But that was a good one.
Why did Carlos Beltran throw his helmet before jumping into the Royals mob at home plate following his game-winning home run off Damaso Marte? I think I would want to keep my helmet, shin pads, elbow pads and any other equipment I could find because those mobs would be painful!
Speaking of the White Sox/Royals series, who am I supposed to cheer for? I want both of them to lose. I was happy that Billy Koch and Damaso Marte struggled, but I don't want the Royals to win, especially not in such dramatic fashion. Maybe I want them to just split.
A few guys had very disappointing 2003 seasons, but got off to a good start in 2004. Paul Konerko was 3-4. Juan Gonzalez was 2-4. Pat Burrell was 3-4. Ben Grieve was 2-4 with a homer and 3 RBI. Was it an Opening Day fluke, or a sign of things to come?
Kip Wells is very underrated. His win-loss record for Pittsburgh should not be looked at. He has good stuff and last year, had an ERA just over 3.00. Expect his name to be mentioned in trade rumors before the deadline.
Milton Bradley went to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yesterday, he was inserted into the 3 hole of the Dodgers lineup. He had singles in his first two at bats.
Some may think that the Indians gave up on Bradley too quickly, and maybe they're right. However, they came out just fine in the deal. Now, they don't have to deal with Bradley's attitude. Some may think team chemistry doesn't matter in baseball. I think Milton Bradley can really hurt a clubhouse, specifically a young clubhouse like Cleveland's. Also, the Indians got a great hitting prospect in OF Franklyn Gutierrez. The 20 year old moved up to AA last year. By the end of next year, maybe even by September, the Indians could have a starting outfield of Gutierrez, Grady Sizemore and Jody Gerut. I like the way the Indians GM Mark Shapiro works.
That's it for my thoughts on Opening Day. It was full of good baseball, and it is just great that the season is on!
Any baseball thoughts? How 'bout them Twins? If you have any questions or comments on anything, send me an e-mail.
And because this is so short, check out the postings from recent days.
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