Jonathan Schoop wants everyone to remember he also contributed in the seventh inning when the Twins pushed across two runs against two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
Of course, his moment came after fellow newcomers Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez all had hits in the inning, with Gonzalez’s two-run double being the difference in a 2-0 win over Cleveland. But Schoop, who was plunked by Kluber, doesn’t want to be left out.
“They came through and scored,” he said before chuckling. “And then I got hit by a pitch, so I got on base, too.
“This team is going to be good, man. And this is what it’s going to be like. [Hitters] one to nine can do damage and one to nine can win the game.”
For the Twins’ new crew, it was their how-do-you-do moment as they eventually solved Kluber and won on Opening Day, giving manager Rocco Baldelli a win in his managerial debut and providing a thrilling game for an announced sellout crowd of 39,519 at Target Field.
“A happy ending for everybody,” Cruz said.
The Twins are paying the quartet a total of $38.3 million this season, and each brings certain skills that help them fit in nicely with their new team.
Cruz provides home runs on the field and wisdom in the clubhouse. Schoop, at second base, and Cron, at first, give the Twins power from the right side of the infield. Gonzalez can play everywhere, with third base being his home until Miguel Sano returns from a laceration on the back of his ankle.
There’s a lot of quality at-bats in that group.
And it was Gonzalez, who hit .266 with runners in scoring position last season with Houston, who had the big hit Thursday.
Kluber, an emotionless, strike-throwing machine nicknamed Klubot, no-hit the Twins for five innings before Byron Buxton hit a double in the sixth inning. Klubot entered the seventh having given up one walk — to Gonzalez — and a hit. He was matching Twins righthander Jose Berrios scoreless inning for scoreless inning.
“We just maintained that we knew that he was going to continue to throw strikes and that we were going to be ready to swing the bat,” Baldelli said.
The Twins finally got to some hittable pitches from Kluber in the seventh.
Cruz led off with a single to left. After Eddie Rosario struck out, Cron bashed a pitch up in the zone to center for a single, putting two runners on for Gonzalez.
With the count 0-1, Kluber threw a changeup that stayed up in the strike zone. Gonzalez, batting lefthanded, whacked it to left-center, where it got past center fielder Leonys Martin and rolled to the wall. Cruz and Cron scored.
“I think that was the only pitch he missed the whole game,” Gonzalez said. “It was a changeup. He left it up. All of his pitches in the first six innings were down in the zone. Everything was moving. That was why we couldn’t hit in the first six innings.”
Fans finally had something other than a Berrios strikeout to cheer about.
The group was signed to join a developing young core. But they entered Thursday with a combined 13,799 plate appearances. OK, Cruz has 6,418 on his own, but all are experienced hitters who can help a lineup grind through games like the one on Thursday.
They knew Kluber would eventually give them something to hit — it just took until the seventh.
“We had that approach, be aggressive,” Cruz said. “He’s throwing strikes, so it seemed like any time he got ahead of you, he found a way to strike you out or just got tougher.
“It was something where we felt like we needed to score one run — and we have Jose.”
They ended up with two runs, which was enough this day. It’s too early to conclude the Twins will hit good pitching night in and night out. But the added experience, and its potential impact in the lineup, can’t be discounted.
“Our guys, like I said, had great at-bats,” Baldelli said. “They continued to do it, and then Marwin comes up with a big hit. That’s what we look to and carry into the rest of the series and the rest of the season.”