Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The year says 2017 but on Monday the Minnesota Twins seemingly turned back the clock and beat the Kansas City Royals 7-1 to claim victory in their first season-opener since 2008.
Minnesota's center fielder made a pair of spectacular web gem catches to rob Kansas City of hits, the Twins catcher had a pair of hits and drove in two runs and the Twins pitcher by the last name of Santana pitched a spectacular game. Once again, it is 2017.
Ervin Santana got the start for Minnesota and pitched a nearly flawless game, his one mistake being a fastball that Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas drilled into the right field bleachers to give Kansas City the early 1-0 lead. After that, Santana was lights out, finishing by going seven strong innings, allowing just two hits and one run while giving up two walks and striking out three.
A lot of his effectiveness was just a good game plan with [Jason] Castro and executing the fastball," Twins Manager Paul Moliter said after the game. "He pitched a really good game for us."
Fueled by a huge six-run seventh inning, the Twins were able to break a 1-1 tie and coast to an otherwise easy win at Target field. The six-run inning was due in large part to the return of Minnesota's small ball as they drew four walks - three bases-loaded walks - and executed two bunts, one of which outfielder Max Kepler beat out for an infield single.
"Obviously the walks were big and they kind of put us over the edge to win the game but there were a couple of good sacrifice bunts," Brian Dozier said. "I told Kepler that getting down the line well was kind of the game changer. A lot of guys sacrifice and give up the out and kind of coast down the line but he busted his tail down the line and that was a big play...It was a big win."
The Twins got on the board in the board in the fourth inning when Miguel Sano crushed his first home run of the season off Royals starter Danny Duffy to tie the game at 1-1.
After a few back-and-forth scoreless innings, the seventh inning came around and the Twins got to the once-dominant Royals bullpen.
Twins hitters were patient, they put together good at-bats and appeared to have veteran mindsets up and down the lineup in that inning.
Castro, the catcher acquired in the offseason, had a solid regular season debut for Minnesota, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs batted in after a huge bases-loaded single in the 7th inning.
"It was a great start. I couldn't have asked for a better first [game]," Castro said, speaking on his performance Monday. "It was a fun game too. It was close, back-and-forth and then we had that big inning so that was nice to see."
It wasn't all about the offense for the Twins as they also had quite a few web gem plays on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Center fielder Byron Buxton struggled at the plate going 0-for-5 but made up for it with two spectacular diving catches to rob the Royals of hits.
Speaking after the game, Buxton talked about his two big catches.
"The outfielders, we have this saying, 'Nothing falls but raindrops,' and we kind of take that to heart," Buxton said. "We want to be the best outfield out there. We try to be aggressive with every fly ball, every line drive that we can be and we know that we're going to have back-up and that allows us to play freely and dive for those balls because we know that we're going to have each other's backs."
With the win Monday night, the Twins are now 3-5 in home openers at Target Field and 31-26 all time.
Minnesota will get Tuesday off before taking on the Royals once again Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.
- Monday's 39,615 paid attendance was the 160th sellout all-time at Target Field and the eighth since the start of the 2015 season.
- Santana is the first Twins starting pitcher to earn a win on Opening Day since Livan Hernandez in 2008.
- Of Miguel Sano's 44 career home runs, only 11 have come off left-handed pitching, including Monday's against Duffy.
- Shortstop Jorge Polanco scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. The Twins were 13-6 in games in which Polanco scored last season.