MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It can be hard to pinpoint key games in a 162-game schedule, but Opening Day just has a different feel to it.
From the players starting a new season, to the fans coming out to see baseball for the first time since last October after a tough winter, anticipation is everywhere. The Minnesota Twins have plenty of new faces this year, and they all had a part in a 2-0 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
It doesn’t get much better than beating your division rival in the first game of the season, one expected to win the Central Division.
It was Opening Day, and it always has a celebratory feel. Here are some takeaways from the win.
Molitor sits front row
While fans were settling into the first game of 2019 at Target Field, there was an interested observer sitting in the front row of the Champions Club, directly behind home plate. It was former manager Paul Molitor, sitting and enjoying the game he loves with his family. Interesting, and maybe a little weird that Molitor was watching the organization that fired him after finishing 78-84 last season.
Sid, Morneau, Berrios standing ovations
Opening Day is full of pomp and circumstance, and Thursday didn’t disappoint. Former Twins star Justin Morneau threw out the celebratory first pitch. He won the American League MVP in 2006 and was a four-time All-Star with the Twins as a first baseman and designated hitter. Morneau was in the middle of another strong season in 2010 when he got a concussion in a game at Toronto.
The 99th birthday celebration continued for Sid Hartman, who was presented with a No. 99 Twins jersey and given a standing ovation between innings during the game.
Jose Berrios dominated, and was given a well-deserved standing ovation from fans after pitching into the eighth inning and throwing 96 pitches, keeping Cleveland off the scoreboard. He was removed after giving up a two-out single in the eighth inning. Taylor Rogers got the four-out save for the Twins’ win.
Golden State Warriors hit Target Field
The Golden State Warriors got into the Twin Cities a little early for their Friday night game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Early enough that the team was at Target Field for Thursday’s game. Among the players spotted by cameras were DeMarcus Cousins and Steph Curry.
4 new players contribute
The Twins have several new faces on the team this year, and they all played a part in Thursday’s win. Marwin Gonzalez, signed in free agency after playing with the Houston Astros, was the Twins’ first base-runner after drawing a walk in the fifth. He also delivered the game-winning hit with a double in the seventh off Corey Kluber. The inning was set up with a Nelson Cruz sharp single to left, and a C.J. Cron bloop hit to center. Jonathan Schoop was also hit by a pitch in the inning.
Jose Berrios might have asserted himself as the Twins’ ace on one of the most important days of the year. Opening Day is always one of the most exciting days in baseball, and Berrios didn’t disappoint. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, striking out 10 with just one walk. He set a Twins’ Opening Day record with 10 strikeouts, topping Brad Radke’s eight in 1996. It was also the 10th time in his career he’s struck out 10. As manager Rocco Baldelli put it, “He was dominant.”
Baldelli gets Golden Fungo, game ball
Rocco Baldelli got his first managerial win on Thursday, and brought a fungo bat and baseball to the post game media room. The bat, the “Golden Fungo,” went to the coach of the day in Spring Training. It was presented to Baldelli by bench coach Derek Shelton. Baldelli called it “One of the coolest things I’ve ever possessed in my life.” And after every win, Eddie Rosario hands out a game ball to one deserving person. Thursday, it was Baldelli.
“This is very special to me. It’s something that I’ll hold onto forever,” Baldelli said.
That’s an Opening Day that couldn’t have gone much better for the Twins.