Much discussion in the wake of yesterday's loss to the White Sox revolved around the frustrating manner in which the game ended. With the Twins trailing 5-4 in the ninth inning, pinch hitter Jim Thome delivered a scorching two-out double over the head of left fielder Juan Pierre. J.J. Hardy, who had been on first base representing the tying run, came charging into third just as the ball was reaching cut-off man Mark Teahen. Unfortunately, Scott Ullger failed to throw up the stop sign, and as a result Hardy was easily thrown out at home plate to end the game.
It was a disappointing conclusion to the Twins' season-opening road trip, but the overall results in the first seven games have been undeniably positive. The Twins went on the road to face a pair of relatively strong teams and came away with two series victories. The starting pitching has been solid, the bullpen -- with the exception of Jose Mijares -- has been highly effective, and of course the offense has been stellar.
Indeed, the team's play thus far has given fans plenty to be excited about. And that excitement will culminate this afternoon when the Twins officially christen their brand new ballpark. Jon Lester and Carl Pavano will face off in the inaugural regular season contest at Target Field at 3 pm, and the next chapter of Minnesota baseball will get underway.
A 5-2 opening road trip bodes well for a team that went 38-43 in opponents' ballparks last year, but one of the Twins' greatest strengths over the past decade has been their ability to consistently win games at home. Today we'll get our first meaningful glimpse of the Twins in Target Field, a stadium they are at this point mostly unfamiliar with. Acclimating to the quirks and tendencies of this field will be a process for the Twins, so it's unclear how much of an advantage they will hold in their new outdoor stadium, especially in the earlier games when cool weather might suppress the power that is shaping up to be this team's hallmark.
Boston makes for a tough match-up in a home opening series, but if the Twins can keep playing the way they did during the first week of the season they should be up to the challenge. The Angels and White Sox are viewed by many as playoff-caliber teams, and the Twins came out of both teams' stadiums looking like the superior club. If the Twins can get off to a fast start against a quality opponent in their own home park, I think fans will have enough positive signs to make them forget about the missed sign at third base yesterday.
The long wait is over. Outdoor baseball in Minnesota begins today. Let's play ball.