The Twins season began, as so many have, with a strike thrown by Brad Radke. Only this time, he wasn't in uniform, and it was the ceremonial first pitch. That pitch was delayed for several minutes by the standing ovation which greeted Radke as he jogged out to the mound. I was a little surprised by this. Not because Radke didn't deserve the adulation, but rather that he deserved it for years without getting it until now.
Better late than never?
Then there was what one presumes was a lovely tribute to the late, great Herb Carneal, but over the Dome's crappy sound system I only caught about every fourth word. The pictures were nice, though. Someone left a comment on Batgirl recently saying that they pictured Herb Carneal, Bob Casey and Kirby Puckett getting together in the afterlife to watch the season opener. I'm sure they did--even death couldn't keep any of those guys from a Twins game.
The Dome was packed. It wasn't just a sellout, it was a blowout. You could hear the great concrete fishbowl groaning under the weight of nearly 49,000 Twins fans. (Well, okay, 10,000 Twins fans and 39,000 people looking for an excuse to drink.) I have the same seats this year that I've had for the two seasons prior. A friend has the two seats directly in front of mine, and together we and our guests form a tiny island of sanity, as well as Juan Rincón's personal cheering section.
There was, of course, a jackass right behind us. There usually is. And last night included the additional joy of another one row back and a few seats over. (TBL is a magnet for jackasses. Also, street preachers. But I digress.) If the gentleman with his young daughter who held his tongue until near the end of the game and then finally, politely explained to Jackass the Second that his behavior was unacceptable in a venue with children present (only to be loudly berated for his trouble) happens to be reading this: kudos to you, sir.
Oh, but the game. The game was brilliant. Johan Santana strode to the mound like he owned it (he does) and, facing the first batter of the season, did what he does best--struck the poor bastard out. Looking.
And in his first at-bat of the season, Joe Mauer did what he does best--got a hit. So then Justin Morneau had to do what he does best (eh!)--hit a homer. And Torii Hunter isn't about to be left behind, so he hit one, too.
For the record, boys? TBL likes the back-to-back jacks. Very much. Especially against the tough lefties like Erik Bedard.
Then--whoops!--Johan lost the lead in the fourth when he gave up a walk and three doubles (was he just toying with them, do you think?), but the Twins came right back and loaded the bases with one out, and Jeff Cirillo said "Hello, Minnesota!" with a single that scored Cuddyer to tie the game up. Third base coach Scotty Ullger had a senior moment, confusing Justin Morneau for someone who can run, and sent him from third only to be thrown out at home. Alas.
Johan got back on his game and went 1-2-3 in the fifth, which got our hitters back out there while still in a scoring mood. Luis Castillo opened things up with his hundredth hit of the game, Punto doubled and Mauer walked, and hey presto, the bases were loaded with no outs. Cuddyer struck out and Castillo scored on a passed ball to Morneau. (The passed ball and the wild pitch have got to be the most disheartening ways to blow a tie. I mean, really. Ouch.) Then Morneau hit a two-run double and by all that's holy and by all that's right and by the blessed voice of St. Herb the Accurate, he was safe, goddammit. That was a double, not a single and a putout, and TBL demands a revision of the stats!
And Hunter doubled through a hail of curses and boos directed at the second base umpire, putting the Twins up by three at 6-3.
The rest of the game was more sedate, broken only by a Tejada solo homer for the O's and a fielding error that allowed Jason Tyner to score for the Twins. Miracle of miracles, a whole game with loads and heaps and piles of baserunners for the Twins passed without anyone hitting into a double play. Not even Torii.
The ninth rolled around with the Twins leading 7-4 and in the perfect end to a darn fine season opener, His Twitchiness, Joltin' Joe Nathan, came in and smoked some fastballs past 'em for the save.
Now that's the way you start a season!
Tonight, BOOOOOOOOOF Bonser goes up against Daniel Cabrera. Wednesday, TBL's heading back to the Dome to witness the Minnesota debut of Mr. Ramon Ortiz against Jaret Wright.