It was a heartening first game for the Twins, who heard all spring about how little hope they have of being interesting after a 103-loss season. Their team meeting before the game was about that very point: Don’t listen to the naysayers, we’re better than they think.
We’ll see. But Monday’s game was important, because a loss, some players feared, might trigger a “here we go again” attitude.
Here are a couple of extras from only the second true Opening Day ever held at Target Field:
Miguel Sano is only 23, and Ervin Santana is a decade older. But Sano wants to be more of a leader of the Twins, and he showed it Monday.
When Santana had a momentary lapse in the seventh inning, walking leadoff hitter Lorenzo Cain on four pitches with the score tied 1-1, Sano walked over to the pitcher’s mound for a word with the veteran righthander.
“I don’t know what Miggy tells him,” shrugged manager Paul Molitor.
Well, basically, it was simple encouragement, Santana said.
“He just came over and said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. Get a ground ball double play,’ “ Santana related.
Just trying to keep him thinking positive, Sano said. “I said, ‘You’re the man. Let’s finish the game.’ “
Santana gave the sellout crowd of 39,615 a brief moment of panic after he thought he had struck out Brandon Moss to end the seventh inning. Moss checked his swing but went too far on strike two; one pitch later, he did it again, but this time it was called a ball. Santana began to walk off the field, but returned with a pained look on his face.
Moss then lined a high fly ball into the right field corner, but it drifted several feet foul. The crowd loudly exhaled at the near-home run.
But Santana wasn’t nearly as alarmed, he said. In fact, “I didn’t even look at that ball. He was out in front of it. I knew he got it good, but I knew it was going foul.”
Given another chance, Santana struck out Moss with the next pitch, his final one of the night.