Target Field was packed Monday to the point that fans trying to make their way from section to section between innings often came to a complete stop. It was enough that a friend of mine complained about all the congestion and people.
The on-field product was crisp and professional, between the sterling defensive plays by the home team to the well-pitched game by Ervin Santana to the timely hits up and down the lineup in a 7-1 victory over the Royals — the first Opening Day win for the Twins in almost a decade.
I remarked to a random fan in the outfield that it felt a little like 2010. “I was just thinking the same thing,” he said. “Only back then, it used to be like this every single game I went to — if I could get a ticket.”
I can barely remember 2010 at this point. But I’m trying. I’m squinting at it.
Remember when it didn’t feel like a huge surprise when a Twins starting pitcher delivered a standout performance? Minnesota starting pitchers in 2010 registered 86 quality starts and the pitching staff as a whole posted a 3.95 ERA. Last year, the Twins had an MLB-worst 59 quality starts — a number that figured prominently in the other ugly 59 from 2016, the Twins’ victory total. The team ERA? 5.08.
Hey, they’re 1 for 1 this year thanks to Santana.
In their first eight games at Target Field in 2010, the Twins went 6-2 and scored at least five runs in all but one of those games. In the first home series of 2016, a three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox, the Twins scored exactly two runs — dropping their overall record to 0-9.
It felt like the Twins were trending in that direction Monday until a late outburst resulted in a blowout. Last year’s Twins, by the way, were 14-33 in games decided by five runs or more.
On defense, the 2010 Twins made just 78 errors — fifth-fewest in the majors and second-fewest in the American League. By 2016, those fundamentals had eroded to the point that Minnesota made 126 errors — second-most in all of baseball.
But on Monday, they were error-free and turned in a few gems — including a pair of diving catches by Byron Buxton in center field.
Sorry if we are starved enough for high-quality baseball around here that one game garners this much attention.
When play resumes Wednesday, Target Field won’t be nearly as full as it was Monday. And there’s no guarantee the Twins will perform as well as they did Monday.
But for one day, at least, it sure felt like the glory year at the beautiful ballpark instead of the harder times that followed.