MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Rocco Baldelli will have many firsts in his inaugural season as the manager of the Minnesota Twins. On Thursday, he became the centerpiece of the team’s first clubhouse celebration.
Baldelli brought the “Golden Fungo” and a game ball to the media room after the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 2-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 39,519 fans at Target Field. Marwin Gonzalez provided the pop with a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh.
Jose Berrios and Corey Kluber made it a pitcher’s duel that lasted just 2 hours and 18 minutes. Baldelli reflected on his first win after the game.
“This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever possessed in my life, also the game ball. This is very special for me, this is something I’ll hold onto forever and it means an incredible amount,” Baldelli said of receiving the Golden Fungo and the game ball from Eddie Rosario.
Justin Morneau threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and former Twins manager Paul Molitor was sitting in the front row directly behind home plate taking in the action. The Twins also honored Sid Hartman with a No. 99 jersey for his 99th birthday. The Golden State Warriors were also in attendance ahead of their Friday night game against the Timberwolves.
But Berrios was the show on Thursday. He tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings and struck out 10 Cleveland hitters while walking just one. He allowed just two hits. He was perfect the first time through the Indians’ batting order, with four strikeouts.
Berrios set a Twins' Opening Day record with the 10 strikeouts. Brad Radke struck out eight in the season-opener in 1996. It was also the seventh time in his career that Berrios has had 10 strikeouts.
“He was dominant,” Baldelli said. “I don’t know if he could’ve thrown the ball any better, that’s as good as someone can pitch.”
The toughest decision Baldelli had Thursday was how long to keep Berrios in the game. He allowed a two-out single in the eighth inning to Brad Miller, and Baldelli promptly made his first and only trip out to the mound to take his starter out. They had a brief embrace before Berrios handed the ball over, and tipped his cap to a crowd that was giving him loud and standing ovation.
Berrios left the game after 96 pitches.
“Usually I get a fist bump or a good job and a pat on the back, but I know this was Opening Day. It was a special day for all of us and first game for him as a manager,” Berrios said. “It was emotional out there and seeing all the fans cheering for us. It was a good moment.”
Byron Buxton picked up where he left off from a strong Spring Training, getting the Twins’ first hit in the bottom of the sixth. It was a double to left, and it ended what had been a perfect day for Kluber other than a walk. Kluber retired the first 14 batters he faced.
The Twins finally got to Kluber in the bottom of the seventh and did it with three players who weren’t on the roster last year. Nelson Cruz lined a single to left, C.J. Cron got a bloop single to center and with one out, Marwin Gonzalez laced a two-run double to left center for a 2-0 lead.
It ended up being the game-winner. Kluber went seven innings, allowing the two runs on four hits while striking out five.
“It was an amazing feeling to get my first hit that way, in that situation. Berrios kept us in the game, for me, for the team that was a key to win the game,” Gonzalez said. “Able to get some damage against Corey, he was unbelievable today.”
Lefty Taylor Rogers got the four-out save for the Twins, striking out three batters as Cleveland struck out 13 times on the day.
It’s just one game, but winning on Opening Day can set the tone for a 162-game season. The Twins are off Friday before the series continues Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
“Good feat in front of the fans. A lot of excitement. New players, they want to perform good, we’re pushing for that. Just a happy ending for everybody,” Cruz said.