The occasion was momentous, the setting unbeatable. And after the torturous winter Minnesota has endured these many months, who could complain about a sunny, 58-degree afternoon?
Yes, the only thing wrong with Opening Day at Target Field was the Twins.
For the third consecutive season, Minnesota stumbled through the first of its 81 home games on Monday, drawing big cheers before the game but mostly yawns and sighs after it. Oakland scored two runs in the second inning, three in the third and coasted to an 8-3 victory over the sub-.500-once-again Twins.
Maybe it’s the lining up on the baseline that bothers the Twins, because they’ve done it three times this year, in Chicago, Cleveland and Target Field, just as they did in Baltimore, Kansas City and at home last year, and in Baltimore and Minneapolis in 2012. They get introduced, watch the Opening Day festivities and then lose the game afterward — 0-8 over three seasons.
“Opening Day is a pretty special day,” said Chris Colabello, the reigning AL co-Player of the Week. “I just wish we would have won.”
So does Kevin Correia, and though he was hit hard and surrendered six runs in 5 ⅔ innings, he felt it was a lot more plausible than he made it look. The waiting, you see, is the hardest part.
Last week, Correia was pulled from his start after a five-minute replay-challenge delay, and the bullpen blew his lead. On Monday, Correia had to wait out another long delay — but this one wasn’t while he was sitting on the bench.
In the third inning, Jed Lowrie headed for first base when a Correia fastball missed the corner, but he was called back when home plate umpire Bill Miller pointed out it was only ball three. When Lowrie got back in the batters’ box, he nailed a fastball 400 feet to right field — but just foul. Lowrie complained, and umpires agreed to check with a replay umpire in New York.
But it took more than four minutes to find a definitive camera angle and confirm that the ball was just foul. In the meantime, players and umpires chatted on the field, the crowd of 35,837 — about 3,000 short of a sellout, a first for a Target Field opener — grew restless, and Correia finally threw a couple of pitches to stay warm.
“I don’t like [replay] stopping the game. That’s two times that one really stopped the game for a while,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who has been mostly supportive of the challenge system. “We were told the system would work and would be quick. It’s not working yet, as far as the quick part. But we’re supposed to get [the calls] right.”
An MLB spokesman said the difficult-to-see fly ball “took more time than average to examine. … Ultimately, [replay umpires] saw no replay that clearly and convincingly indicated that the call on the field was incorrect.”
The delay wouldn’t have been a big deal, Correia said, except he was facing a 3-2 pitch when play resumed.
“You’ve been standing there that long, so it does make it tough in the aspect that it’s one pitch, so you don’t have any wiggle room,” Correia said. His pitch to Lowrie, like a 3-2 pitch to Brandon Moss an inning before, “was close, but a definite ball. Just missed with a fastball away. If I could have got those pitches on the plate, the outcome of the game would have a world of difference.”
He was mad about the sequence — but not at the umpires. “I was kind of mad that I didn’t make the pitch I needed to,” he said. “I get that out right there, there’s nobody on and two outs, I probably don’t give up three runs that inning.”
Instead, Josh Donaldson doubled, and Moss singled both players home. After a flyout, Alberto Callaspo doubled, and the Twins were in a 5-1 hole. Against Scott Kazmir, whom the Twins pursued as a free agent last winter, that was too much. Jason Kubel doubled in a run and Kurt Suzuki drove in another on a groundout in the third inning, but Kazmir retired 11 of the final 13 hitters he faced and allowed none of them to reach second base.
“It’s unfortunate, because we’ve been playing pretty well,” Correia said. “I had a good feeling about today.”