Baseball season is back across the country as every Major League team hit the field for Opening Day between Sunday and Monday.
The Minnesota Twins hosted the Kansas City Royals and blew open a pitcher’s duel in the late innings for a 7-1 victory. It was the first home-opening win for the Twins since 2008. That’s right, their first home-opening win at Target Field.
More than 39,000 fans hit downtown Minneapolis for the first game of the 2017 season. Many came optimistic, which is hard to do when you’re coming off a 103-loss season, one of the worst in franchise history. But for now, it’s fun just have baseball back again.
Here are four moments from this year’s Twins home opener.
— Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez) April 4, 2017
Rick Stelmaszek’s Ceremonial First Pitch
Rick Stelmaszek spent 32 seasons with the Twins as the bullpen coach, making him the longest-tenured coach in club history. Stelmaszek, surrounded by friends and family, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Monday’s home opener. He’s currently battling pancreatic cancer. Along with the current Twins team looking on from the dugout, the Twins had former manager Ron Gardenhire and former player A.J. Pierzynski in attendance. Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins, now special assistants for the Twins, were also there.
Current bullpen coach Eddie Guardado caught the ceremonial first pitch. It was a special day for Stelmaszek and his family, made even better by a Twins victory.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 3, 2017
Miguel Sano Monster Home Run
The Royals struck first Monday in a Mike Moustakas home run, but Miguel Sano had an answer in the bottom of the fourth. He hit a game-tying blast to left field that took all of about three seconds to leave the ballpark. For the stat geeks, the home run traveled an estimated 430 feet and came on a 91-mile per hour fastball. It left his bat at nearly 114 miles per hour. To put it in simpler terms, Sano crushed it.
The Twins are hoping he does that a lot this year. Sano hit 22 homers in 116 games last year. They’re also hoping he cuts down on strikeouts this year and improves his production with runners on base. It could all come together with him becoming more comfortable playing at third base and not having to worry about being sent to the outfield. One thing is for sure: It’s a lot of fun watching him crush a baseball.
.@ErvinSantana_54 fans the side in the 7th.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 3, 2017
Ervin Santana Dazzles In Debut
Ervin Santana is the Twins ace. He’s the No. 1 starter in the Twins rotation, and he got the ball for Opening Day. It’s a good opportunity to set the tone for the season, and if Monday was any indication, it’s a great sign for Santana. He was fantastic with seven strong innings, allowing just one run on two hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
Most importantly, he kept the Twins close before the game was blown open in a six-run seventh inning thanks to three bases-loaded walks and two clutch hits. The Twins will need Santana to be consistently at his best to improve on last season.
— #Statcast (@statcast) April 3, 2017
Outfield Defense Shines For Twins
The Twins were largely terrible on defense most of last season, which played a big part in 103 losses. That’s what made Monday so much fun to watch if you’re a Twins fan. The Twins didn’t commit a single error, and the outfield defense was fantastic. If Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler can stay healthy and in the lineup, the Twins will have a fun outfield to watch and one of the fastest in baseball.
Buxton made two highlight reel catches Monday. The first came off an Alex Gordon line drive. The other came on a fly ball that he first back-pedaled on, slipped and fell and had enough time to recover to make another diving catch. It was a play that only Buxton with his speed could make. The Twins could very well be good enough defensively in the outfield to win games.
Enjoy it for now Twins fans. They’re in first place in the American League Central Division. We’re not sure how much we’ll be able to say that this year, so enjoy every win.