Four Positives, One Big Negative from the Minnesota Twins' Season Opener

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Four Positives, One Big Negative from the Minnesota Twins' Season Opener
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Twins can’t sell beer at Target Field anymore this season. Why? Because they lost the opener!

That joke is admittedly juvenile, but what the heck. In April you can joke a little bit about a 4-2 loss. In life you need to laugh, especially if your life is a baseball season. Baseball is a marathon of 162 games; if you can’t kick back and joke or relax, you’re going to drive yourself insane.

It’s not good practice to totally hinge opinion on one game, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Despite the Twins losing their Opening Day contest to the division rival Detroit Tigers, there were a handful of positives and a huge negative to break down.

 

Vance Worley Bounced Back

As the game got rolling, Twins fans’ hearts sunk to the bottom of their stomach. The optimism of a brand new season came crashing to reality when newly acquired Vance Worley gave up a run to the third batter he faced in a Twins uniform.

Worley started the game by giving up hits to Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter, before Jackson was sent home on a Miguel Cabrera fielder’s choice. Then after a wild pitch sent Cabrera to second and a Prince Fielder double scored Cabrera, the Tigers were up two runs before some fans even got their frozen bodies into the seats at Target Field.

In the Tigers' portion of the second inning they got another run across the board on an Omar Infante single, but after that Vance Worley settled in.

What looked initially to be a long afternoon for Vance Worley quickly turned into a quality start for the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher. After that, Worley only gave up three hits in a nice six innings of work.

Worley left the game after six innings, giving up eight hits, one walk, three strikeouts and only giving up those three early runs.

There was some initial fear that Worley would struggle after not having a strong spring, but after the initial butterflies got out of his system he turned in a nice performance. Worley needs to turn in a quality start every time he toes the rubber, if the Twins want to find success in 2013.

 

Bullpen Impressed

The bullpen may have proved that nobody should even care what happens during the month of March on a baseball field. The bullpen looked rough, to say the least, this spring but the trio that appeared in the game yesterday impressed.

The beautiful thing is that neither Jared Burton nor Glen Perkins was a part of said trio.

After starter Vance Worley’s six innings, Ron Gardenhire handed the ball to Casey Fien who struck out three in 17 pitches for a perfect inning. In the 17 pitches Fien tossed, only four were called as a ball.

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The eighth inning started in the hands of Brian Duensing, who found trouble early by giving up a leadoff single to Prince Fielder and walking Victor Martinez. Duensing got an out on an Andy Dirks sacrifice moving the Tiger two up a bag each. Johnny Peralta was then intentionally walked to load the bases and then Duensing came through and struck out Alex Avila. That was the end of Duensing’s day when Gardenhire decided to play matchups and bring in Josh Roenicke.

Roenicke stood on the mound with bases loaded and he uncorked his first pitch as a Twin to the backstop which scored the-not-so-fleet-of-foot Fielder from third. Two pitches later Roenicke did get Omare Infante to pop up to second, but the damage was done. Instead of just a blast to tie the game for the Twins they needed a bloop and a blast.

For Roenicke’s sake he did pitch the ninth and didn’t give up a hit in his whole appearance, making his wild one the only real bad mark on the bullpen’s performance on Monday.

The bullpen finished the day only giving up one hit and two walks (one intentional), which at least for the time being quieting the questions revolving around the bullpen. It should not be looked over that this happened without using the two best guys out of the bullpen.

If the bullpen can make these kind of performance more of the norm and not more of a rarity, assuming the lineup can scratch across more runs, Minnesota’s boys of summer may be a little bit better than advertised.

 

Mauer Looked Good

Not only did Mauer look good, but he also turned in one heck of a ball game at the plate. Mauer strutted up to the dish five times on Monday and only once did he not get on base.

Mauer, now in the two hole in the lineup, a move that should have been made years ago by manager Ron Gardenhire, will get more at-bats and proved why he should get those on Monday.

In the first inning, Mauer reached on a ball hit to Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera that he had trouble getting a hold of, resulting in an error. Two innings later Mauer doubled to left off the flame-throwing Justin Verlander. The fifth inning resulted in a four-pitch walk for the St. Paul native and in the seventh inning he knocked a single into left. Only in the eighth inning left something to be desired from a Mauer plate appearance when he flew out to, you guessed it, left field.

Saying Mauer getting on base can only mean good things is an obvious statement to make, but it can literally only result in good things. The top part of the Twins order could be deadly for opposing pitchers: Mauer, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and Ryan Doumit fill the 2-5 spots. If Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee can impress that’s a heck of a middle of the lineup.

Throw in the table setters of Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks this lineup could look like a real nice, run producing machine.

 

Plate Discipline

Those runs could really pour in if the Twins continually show the plate discipline they showed on Monday afternoon. The Twins drew six walks, none of which were intentional, from three different Detroit hurlers.

Right fielder Chris Parmelee drew two walks while four others all got one free pass a piece. Everyone in the starting lineup got on base during the course of the game by either drawing a walk or getting themselves in the hit column.

The Twins did make the Tigers pitchers work; the Tiger staff threw 20 more pitches (172) than the Twins staff did (152).

That being said, the Twins batting lineup did send up the big ol’ red flag of the ball game.

 

Lack of Clutch Hitting

Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland yanked ace Justin Verlander after 91 pitches and five innings of work due to the cold conditions, but the Twins did not take advantage at all.

Verlander wasn’t exactly unhittable, giving up three hits and two walks while striking out seven, but any time you get four innings against the bullpen in a Verlander start you need to take advantage.

The Twins only got four hits the rest of the ballgame which sounds bad in itself, until you learn more about the hitting problems in the 4-2 loss.

The Twins left 12 men on base in the ballgame, which still isn’t the worst stat of the night.

The Twins went 1-9 with runners in scoring position. Willingham, Parmelee and Plouffe all went 0-2 with runners less than 180 feet from crossing home. Pinch hitter Wilkin Ramirez grounded out with runners on second and third in the sixth inning to kill a rally. The only successful Twin was Ryan Doumit with a bases-loaded RBI single in the seventh inning and then the rally died.

After that Doumit single the bases were loaded and one out for Trevor Plouffe in the midst of a 3-2 contest. All that Plouffe had to do was to get a fly ball to the outfield to score Josh Willingham from third, but to no avail. Plouffe became a strikeout victim on the pitching of Drew Smyly.

Next up was Chris Parmelee and he was pretty much a carbon copy of the Plouffe. Parmelee struck out to end the inning and the Twins never got close to a better scoring opportunity in the remaining two innings.

It is widely assumed the Twins hitting is not going to be the issue for the 2013 campaign, but that was not the case on Monday. The script was totally flipped. If the Twins want to win more ballgames than many of the pundits say they are going to, they need to take advantage of those situations.

The Twins were just a mere sacrifice fly away from a brand new ball game, that wouldn’t again feature the former MVP Justin Verlander.

 

Sitting on a bar stool, tweeting like a darn fool, that's what I'm a doing today. @CollinKottke

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