Twins Win!

Thanks to my daughter’s Christmas gift, I turned on to watch my first Twins game of the season. It was the 7th inning and they were down, 2-0, to the Tigers. With a man on first – Plouffe had walked – Parmelee and Dozier both struck out looking on fastballs down the middle. After a squib double by pinch-hitting newcomer Wilkin Ramirez scored the Twins’ first run of the year, rookie Aaron Hicks struck out swinging on a 3-2 fastball high out of the strike zone. I decided then and there, after one half-inning, that the Twins just have too many black holes in their lineup to be a factor. In the 8th inning, Mauer and Morneau wasted a walk to Willingham with weak ground balls, and I further decided that their supposed big boppers weren’t big enough to make up for the aforementioned black holes.                                                                                                   Then came the 9th, after two fine shutdown relief innings from Burton and Perkins, the team’s main holdover strength from last year, Plouffe again walked (the Minnesota offense consisted of more walks than hits today). After a Parmalee flyout against new Tiger closer, lefty Phil Coke, Brian Dozier, hitless for the year, lofted a soft liner to right and pinch-runner Jamey Carroll dashed to third. That brought up #9 hitter Eduardo Escobar, whom I had never heard of and who, we learned postgame, speaks no English. He had been inserted at shortstop after Ramirez had pinch-hit for Pedro Florimon. On the first pitch from Coke – against whom righties hit over .400 last year, we’d been told – Escobar drove a deep fly to left, far enough to easily score Carroll from third to tie the game. Even better, the Tiger outfielders shied away from each other, the ball bounded against the wall, Dozier scored from first and the Twins had their first win of the season, a walk-off against their nemesis, Detroit. Almost lost in the late offensive outburst was the performance of starting pitcher Kevin Correia who, like Vance Worley the day before, held the potent Tiger offense, last year’s best plus Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter, to two runs. It’s one thing to be workmanlike and eat up the innings – already an improvement over 2012’s starters – but it’s another to do that and help your team get a win.                           So where does that leave me with my prediction for 2013 – having seen only three innings of at bats? You know, it really doesn’t matter, or at least I don’t really care. Everyone else has picked the Twins to finish last. I think they have a shot at finishing as high as third in their division, but with expectations so low we’re in the pleasant position of being excited by every unexpected win. Everyone is also excited about the future now in the farm system – Sano, Buxton, Gibson, Meyer – so we can view any positive signs from the Major League team as a launching pad for 2014, 2015 and beyond. And then – as I’ve said every year this decade – if Morneau happens to get hot, the Twins will go as far as he takes them.