For the first 4 innings of last night’s game it appeared the Twins were in for a tough year. Forget all the big predictions going into this season, in the first game and half of the year the team had shown that it couldn’t hit or pitch up to expectations. When Johan Santana gives up 4 runs to start a game something appears to have gone horribly wrong. All it took was ½ of an inning for everything to be as it should be. Suddenly the team was making plays in the field, their CY Young was back to his old self, everyone in the lineup had a hit and all that was left was for a bullpen full of power arms to finish it off.
Anytime Johan Santana starts he is story of the game. He didn’t have his best stuff last night and had to rely on his changeup even more than usual. The best pitchers in the game are able to overcome bad innings and Santana was marvelous. He didn’t allow a run in his last 4 innings while finishing with 6 K’s and the win. He kept his team in the game so they had a chance to come back.
The lineup finally showed what it was capable of. This lineup should be better then last year with no easy out 1-8 in the order. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter have a chance to be an especially potent combo. We haven’t seen the power potential yet but this team is going to need to generate a lot of runs anyway.
To many, Jacque Jones is an enigma and last night he did a little to prove that both true and false. He showed what frustrates people when he swung at the first pitch and hit into a double play early in the game. His homerun to end the 5th inning scoring was really a thing of beauty and gives hope of the kind of season he is capable of.
The Twins look like they are going to be just fine with a rookie at short. It is hard to remember his brief stint with the team last year because he did nothing special. Now he looks like a hitter at the plate and showed he is able to come up big when needed. He isn’t going to be Cristian Guzman right away but he is showing the Twins weren’t crazy to let Guzman go this winter. Speaking of infielders, even Luis Rivas didn’t look too bad at the plate last night, hear is hoping he proves Gardenhire and me right.
The Twins were able to showcase much of their bullpen with Santana’s early high pitch count. For the most part they looked pretty good. There was a scary moment when Jesse Crain hit Brett Boone but JC Romero was able to come in and pitch effectively, always a good sign with him. Juan Rincon showed no ill effects carried over from game four of the ALDS and threw some pretty nasty stuff. Joe Nathan ended the game like he is supposed to.
With the excitement of the early season it is easy to lose sight of the old cliché that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Games are played for 9 innings and often times the difference between an out and a rally is less than an inch. The Twins are a team built for success. Brad Radke and Santana can have bad outings and Joe Mauer can strike out 3 times and the beauty of the sport is they all can bounce back the next time out. This is the first of many wins in what promises to be an exciting year of baseball.
John (Yes, I know it has been a while)