MILWAUKEE – The Twins' season began at 1:14 p.m., and by 1:20, Josh Donaldson was injured. But the real pain for the Twins didn't arrive until around 5.
That's when new late-inning reliever Alex Colome and some shaky Twins defense turned a three-run, ninth-inning lead into a tie game, and ultimately a 6-5, 10-inning Opening Day loss to the Brewers at American Family Field.
"A combination of things that happened that obviously didn't go our way, and we didn't make the plays that we needed to," Rocco Baldelli said after losing an opener for the first time in his three seasons as Twins manager. "I'm not saying they were all very straightforward plays, but we had a pretty good opportunity to win the game."
So it seemed as they headed to the bottom of the ninth with a 5-2 lead, built on some key hits by Max Kepler, who fell a homer short of the cycle; Luis Arraez, who slapped two hits and was robbed of a third; and Byron Buxton, who hit the longest home run of his career. Baldelli sent Colome, signed over the winter to help protect those leads, to the mound against a Brewers team that hadn't put a runner on base since the fifth.
With one out, however, Colome hit Kolten Wong on the hand with a cutter, and when Keston Hiura slapped a ball back to the mound, the pitcher decided to try to turn it into a double play. But his throw sailed high to second base, and shortstop Andrelton Simmons had to jump to catch it, allowing Wong to slide in safely.
Christian Yelich followed with a warning-track fly ball that popped in and out of Kepler's glove as he ran, falling for a single that scored Wong. One out later, Travis Shaw drove another Colome pitch into the right-center gap for a game-tying double, amping up the socially distanced sellout crowd of 11,740 to packed-house decibel levels.
"We just have to ultimately make those plays and throw the ball to the right base, things like that," Baldelli shrugged. "We start that inning and the same balls are hit, I think we're going to make those plays a vast majority of the time, and know what to do. Today, it just didn't happen."
The 10th inning then unfolded as if preordained. Brewers closer Josh Hader quickly whiffed Willians Astudillo, Arraez and Jake Cave on 11 pitches, all but one of them registering at least 97 miles per hour.
With Lorenzo Cain starting the 10th on second base under MLB's pandemic rules, Brewers catcher Omar Navaez lined a single to right field off Randy Dobnak to move Cain to third. Orlando Arcia followed with a ground ball to second base, hit softly enough to allow Cain to score ahead of Jorge Polanco's throw.
Suddenly, a game that crawled along all afternoon had sped up too fast for the Twins.
"We didn't come through," Baldelli said. "Sometimes when you don't make the plays, that's what's going to happen."
Despite losing Donaldson because of a tight hamstring in the first inning, the Twins held a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Kepler, who had already smashed his first triple since Aug. 20, 2018, grounded an Eric Yardley curveball down the left-field line for a double. Buxton followed with a titanic 456-foot blast to center field.
"The ball left his bat in a pretty impressive way. Everybody in the building knew it was long gone," Baldelli said. "When he impacts the ball, it's visible and it affects the game in a big way."
Just not big enough — though the manager remained upbeat.
"If we battle like that and play like that all year long, we're going to be in a good spot. Today did not go our way, but our guys played with good enthusiasm," Baldelli said. "If we're sitting in that spot all year long, we've done something right."