The other day, I read this article in the Star Tribune that reflected on memorable Minnesota Twins home openers of previous seasons. This got me thinking about Twins game #1’s that stood out to me. I’ll focus on season-openers, instead of the home variety, as whether home or road that first contest is always the big one for me...
2002: Jacque Jones hit one into the Kauffman fountains to lead off the season, Dick Bremer said “contract that!”, and the ‘02 Twins were off and running, hanging on for a wild 8-6 win.
2004: Down 4-0 at the Dome versus Cleveland, the Twins rallied to tie it up in the bottom of the eighth. In the bottom of the 11th, Shannon Stewart walked it off with a three-run homer to left field.
2005: A 5-1 loss at Safeco was nothing memorable, except for yours truly being away from home (at college) for the first time for Opening Day. Richie Sexson hit a monster HR off Brad Radke in the first inning (of course), Jamie Moyer was his usual crafty self, and Eddie Guardado pitched the final frame—for the Mariners. Odd occurrence: Joe Mauer stole a base, and cut down Ichiro Suzuki trying to do the same.
2008: A nail-biter in the Metrodome versus the Angels, with Livan Hernandez & Jered Weaver both turning in gems. This ultimately turned into the Carlos Gomez show, as the new acquisition in the Johan Santana trade the previous off season hit a double and stole two bases. Joe Nathan struck out new Anaheim resident Torii Hunter in the 9th en route to the 3-2 Twins victory.
2010: Two years later, Weaver gained a measure of revenge, beating the Twins in Orange County. Somewhat remarkably, after Weaver’s 6 IP the rest of the game was closed out by Angel relievers Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Rodney, & Brian Fuentes—all future Twins.
2011: After a magical opening campaign in Target Field, the Twins were full of optimism for ‘11—and promptly got the doors blown off in Toronto (13-3). The Blue Jays scored 4 in the first and never looked back, rocking Carl Pavano and the rest of the Twins’ pen. Jose Bautista homered, Tsuyoshi Nishioka made an error, and it proved to be a portend for how ‘11 ultimately shook out.
2013: I was in the house for this opener, and it was—miserable. 35 degrees at first pitch, with a 20+ mph wind. Justin Verlander was dominant for Detroit, and not even a late-inning rally against the always-suspect Tiger pen could muster much of a response from the frozen denizens. This game is probably best known, however, for featuring Vance Worley as the (embarrassing) Opening Day starter.
2015: Another Tigers opener (this time in Motown), and another dominant pitching performance from the big cats. David Price cruised through 8.2 IP (5 H, 0 ER), while Phil Hughes, uh, did not, allowing homers to J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila, as well as a double and a triple to Yoenis Cespedes. In an uncanny piece of symmetry, Joe Nathan (former Twin) recorded the final out by striking out Torii Hunter (former Tiger turned current Twin).
2016: A complete and utter disaster in every sense of the word in Baltimore. After being delayed considerably by the threat of rain, the Twins and Orioles finally got going—for a whole two innings, after which another long delay occurred. When play finally resumed for good, the Twins fared little better, as Oriole catcher Matt Wieters walked them off in bottom of the ninth (against Jepsen, of course). This would be the first of nine straight losses to start ‘16 for Minnesota, in what would prove to be the single worst season in franchise history.
Good or bad, those are the season-openers that stick out to me. How about you—any particular memories about 1/162, home or away?