Taylor Rogers succinctly summed up the meaning of Thursday’s Opening Day victory.
“We go to bed tonight in first place,” the lefthander said. “Can’t beat that.”
He knows that status might be temporary, however. Kind of like the way he is the Twins’ new closer. For a day.
“It definitely gives me confidence. Glad I got the job done. But we’re going to need everybody down there,” Rogers said after posting his third career save. “I guess since it was the first game, it kind of sheds more light on things. We’ll see how things play out as we go.”
Things played out wonderfully for the Twins when new manager Rocco Baldelli summoned him to face pinch hitter Greg Allen with two outs in the eighth inning and a runner on first base. Allen worked the count to 3-2, but Rogers froze him with a 94-miles-per-hour fastball at the knees and walked to the dugout. Then came a surprise.
“I got back in the dugout and [pitching coach] Wes [Johnson] said, ‘You’re going to go back out and finish this.’ I said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Two strikeouts and a routine fly ball in the ninth, and Rogers had sealed the victory, extended his streak to 27⅓ scoreless innings, dating back to July, and given himself the inside track on the permanent closer job — if Baldelli decides to eventually appoint one. He’s made no such promises, though.
“The staff has been really good with us about communicating their side of things. They’re very clear,” Rogers said. “They say, ‘We think you match up this way with these guys, the other guys match up this way, and we’re just going to play it as the game goes and kind of let the game come to us.’ ”
Great seat for Molitor
The Twins sold out Target Field for the first time since last year’s home opener, and there were some notable figures among the 39,519 in attendance.
The reigning NBA champions, for instance. Steph Curry rented a suite, and several members of the Golden State Warriors, in town to face the Timberwolves on Friday, watched and cheered from the third base side. Whether a team known for its record-breaking scoring was impressed by the lack of offense in a 2-0 pitchers’ duel was unclear.
Perhaps the most unexpected spectator was seated in the front row, directly behind home plate. Paul Molitor, fired as Twins manager last October after four seasons, watched with his family as Baldelli made his managing debut.
Molitor was in the line of sight of the pitchers, Rogers said, which took him by surprise when he came into the game. But the fact that Molitor still feels close to his hometown team “shows the kind of man he is,” the pitcher said.
Buxton breaks it up
Byron Buxton was aware Corey Kluber had a no-hitter going when he came to bat in the sixth inning, “but it didn’t scare me away.” He proved it by roping a double over left fielder Jake Bauers’ head.
Buxton, who received one of the loudest ovations of the day before playing his first game at Target Field since May 23, then tagged up and moved to third base on a fly ball to left field, an aggressive play the speedy outfielder says reflects the way Baldelli wants him to play.
“With Rocco, he wants you to take those chances. The closer you get to home plate, the easier it is for us to score,” said Buxton, who easily beat Bauers’ throw. “I just tried to put a little bit more pressure on them.”
• Kyle Gibson flew to the Twin Cities on Wednesday after throwing 70 pitches in five scoreless innings against Boston’s Class AAA team in Fort Myers. It was the final spring tuneup for the Twins righthander, who is expected to make his first start of 2019 on Tuesday at Kansas City.
• Jonathan Schoop’s right hand was wrapped in ice after the game, the result of being hit by a Kluber pitch in the seventh inning. Schoop said the pitch didn’t hit a bone and he should be fine.
• Thursday was the first Opening Day game since 1972 in which Cleveland’s uniforms didn’t include Chief Wahoo, the cartoon character that has long drawn criticism as an insulting depiction of American Indians. The Wahoo logo has appeared on the team’s uniforms nearly every season since 1951 but is being abandoned.