KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trevor Larnach may have struck out in his first two at-bats of the 2023 season, but he bounced back to drive in the game's decisive run in his first Opening Day as a big leaguer.
"Honestly, I felt just pure excitement," he said.
Then again, his old Oregon State teammate, Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, homered in his first at-bat of the season and went 5-for-5.
"Really?" Larnach said in amazement. "I'm going to have to hit him up."
Larnach has plenty to be happy about, too. As the Twins' cleanup hitter, he singled twice and drew a walk. Most importantly, he followed Byron Buxton's leadoff triple in the sixth by lining a Zack Greinke curveball into center field, scoring the season's first run.
"That felt great. That felt great for not only me, but for these guys, to get us going," Larnach said. "I just wanted it so bad. Luckily Buck is Buck, so he gets on third with one swing of the bat."
That success soothed the frustration of his previous at-bat against Greinke, when he worked the count to 3-2, fouled off a couple of tough two-strike pitches, then took a curveball that was an inch or two off the plate outside. A pitch that home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor called strike three.
"Yeah, that was tough to swallow, but you can't let that take over. The main thing was my eyes were right. I got the iPad to check it. It backed me up," Larnach said. "The result wasn't there, but if I saw a 2-for-3 [day] with two walks and a couple singles and a [RBI], that would have been nice. But that wasn't what I got. That's all right, though, that's how the game goes."
If it goes that way on most days, his manager will be happy.
"He's driven to be great. He sees this as an opportunity to go prove that and show everybody what he can do," Rocco Baldelli said. "It doesn't bother him, hitting in the four-hole on Opening Day. He handled it all great and hit some balls good. … I was very impressed."
Officially, Joey Gallo is now a remarkable 0-for-19 in his career when facing Greinke. It's not a big deal, the first baseman said after Thursday's 2-0 victory, but he doesn't exactly agree with how his first at-bat was scored.
Gallo hit a ground ball toward right field, a hit for virtually any other batter. But the Royals moved right fielder MJ Melendez toward the infield by about 50 feet, where he was in position to field the ball and throw Gallo out. But Melendez bobbled the ball, and Gallo reached on what was ruled an error.
"I've never seen a [ground] ball to a right fielder be called an error," Gallo grumbled.
But Gallo, 0-for-2 in his Twins debut, still made a significant contribution, by bailing Pablo López out of a bases-loaded jam with his defense.
After walking Bobby Witt Jr. to load the bases in the fifth inning with one out, López threw three straight balls to Melendez. He came back to make the count 3-2, then fooled Melendez with an outside changeup, which the batter tapped up toward first base.
Gallo raced in to field the ball and throw it home to prevent a run, and Christian Vázquez relayed it to Gordon covering first to throw out Melendez and end the threat.
"I wouldn't say it was an easy play. I just reacted," Gallo said. "I wanted to get it before it went foul, because I knew I'd be able to get an out at home. I just want to attack it and get the out, and we ended up turning a double play."
"Big play," Baldelli said. "We might still be playing right now if they don't find a way to make that play."
Gallo reached the major leagues primarily as a third baseman in the minors, "so I kind of have a natural feel for the infield a little bit. … It's nice to help the team win, any way I can."
- Opening Day marks the first day that players are paid for their efforts. From Thursday until Oct. 2, each minimum-salary player in MLB will earn $720,000, or $3,850 per day, whether they play or not. Carlos Correa, the highest-paid player in Twins history with a salary of $32 million this season (plus a $4 million signing bonus he received in February), will make $171,123 each of the next 187 days.