PITTSBURGH – The Twins on Wednesday stumbled across the best way to stay warm during April baseball: Run, preferably around the bases.
The snow swirled, the wind howled and the temperature kept ratcheting down toward freezing and below. But the Twins kept the blood flowing by smacking nine hits, stretching five of them into doubles, and taking extra bases whenever possible, even in some of the most surprising circumstances. The wintry weather became such an afterthought, closer Fernando Rodney was catching snowflakes on his tongue as he recorded the final outs of the Twins’ 7-3 victory at empty PNC Park.
“It’s a good game to win. We end up having a winning road trip to start the season,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of his 3-2 team. “Everyone will be anxious to get back home. At least we’ll be used to the conditions.”
Used to them, but not necessarily happy about it. “Cold. I’m still cold,” Miguel Sano said a half-hour after a game in which, heavily garbed with winter wear, he provided the go-ahead run by slowing down, speeding up and rumbling home from first base on Logan Morrison’s first hit as a Twin, a double into the right field corner.
“He can move, man,” Morrison said. “Great baserunning.”
Temperatures were in the mid-30s during the game with a wind that made it feel like 22 degrees, with the teams sometimes fighting blowing snow.
The Twins had some more of that, plus some fine defense, and a brain freeze, too — all of it provided by Eddie Rosario. The left fielder, fighting through a season-opening slump, scored from first base on a single by Sano, and in the fifth inning, with the Twins trailing 3-2, charged in to scoop up a Corey Dickerson single and throw out Pirates baserunner Gregory Polanco at the plate, a play that “changed the momentum of the game,” according to starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
“It was a big play,” agreed Molitor. “The ball wasn’t hit particularly crisply, but the direction was good and [Rosario] had a straight charge toward the plate and he kept it on line. [That’s] something we didn’t see as much of last year as we had in the past, with that throw tailing up, but he kept that one right on the mark.”
But Rosario also went 0-for-4 and had an embarrassing moment amid the Twins’ game-winning four-run rally in the sixth. With Brian Dozier on second, Rosario hit a popup into the snowy gale above home plate. Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli couldn’t find it amid the flurries, and neither could first baseman Josh Bell. But when it fell to the turf in fair territory, Rosario hadn’t moved, and was thrown out at first, with Dozier moving up.
Call it a teaching moment.
“I felt like I needed to say something, even though I know he knows. You just can’t make assumptions like that,” Molitor said. “He’s frustrated, I’m sure. He’s trying to get the runner over there with a man on second and nobody out, and he pops it up. The frustration got the better of his judgment there.”
Actually, Rosario said, he believed the ball was foul, and when he heard Cervelli yell that he couldn’t see it in the snow, “I say, ‘Hey, hey, [it’s] over there, over there!’ ” Rosario said, in hopes of fooling Cervelli. “I’ll just run next time.”
It turned out not to matter, because it was at that moment that the Twins really began producing heat with their bats. Sano singled home Dozier — who earlier in the game had already provided his fourth home run in just five games — Morrison doubled, and after a pitching change, Eduardo Escobar and Byron Buxton doubled, too. It added up to four runs, more than enough to hand the 4-1 Pirates their first loss, largely because the Twins’ bullpen chipped in with 4⅔ innings of scoreless relief.
Odorizzi surrendered two first-inning runs, on Josh Harrison’s leadoff double and Josh Bell’s 432-foot home run to center field. A pair of singles produced another Pirates run in the fourth inning, and after issuing back-to-back walks in the fifth, his night was done.