Opening Day. The excitement built by a long winter finally comes to a boil. Everyone wants their team to win, and to look good doing it. Every fan in America wants to be able to continue to hold out hope for at least another night, week, month.
The Twins faced the Angels, and beat them 3-2.
Livan started the game, and made Gardy look pretty good for giving him the Opening Day Nod. He went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits. I didn’t expect this kind of an outing, but as pointed out on a comment on this very blog not too long ago, a few of his many Opening Day Starts have been similar to this one.
I remember saying “Hell, if he gives us 7 innings and 2 runs every time, we’ll be in good shape!” about one of our pitchers last year. That was Ramon Ortiz. So … while I’m pleased with Livan’s outing, I’m not getting too excited about it.
Carlos Gomez went 2-3, with 1 BB, 2 SB, 2 R. That’s an excellent line, and he also did his part to make Gardy look good for giving him the leadoff/CF spot out of Spring Training. He led off the game with a double down the left field line, and scored on Mauer’s base hit to center. He also had a bunt base hit to the right side of the infield, reminiscent of Rod Carew.
To reward Gomez’s good day at the plate, Gardy had him stay on the field after the game was over to shag fly balls. I understand that this may have been the plan since before the game, to give him some practice catching fly balls under the Baseball-Colored-Sky in the Dome, but given his day at the plate and the numerous fly balls he caught during the game, perhaps it could have waited. (Thanks to FunBobby for the report from the stadium; otherwise I wouldn’t have known about Gomez’s Sisyphusian punishment.)
While Gomez had a good day at the park in his Twins debut, Torii Hunter didn’t have quite as good a time of it wearing a scarlet A for the first time. He went 0-4 despite repeatedly getting resounding, heart-warming standing ovations from 49,000+ of his former fans. It was good to see that Twins Fans still hold Torii close to their hearts, and it really threw Joe Morgan for a loop. I guess he was expecting the Chuck Knoblauch Reception.
Oh yes. One last thing regarding Gardy’s management of the lineup. Against the right handed Jered Weaver, he opted to leave Kubel on the bench in favor of Monroe. Before the game, Gardy said he hadn’t decided which was going to start, and would have to “look at the numbers again.” It was probably too much to hope that he meant that he’d see that Kubel batted .280/.336/.474/.810 against RHP last year, compared to .194/.247/.308/.555 for Monroe. Needless to say, a .255 difference in OPS is simply huge. Joe Morgan defended the decision by talking about the LRLRL order, and that if multiple lefties were in a row, then a left handed reliever could come on late in the game and shut them down.
Well, let’s see. Monroe’s 0-3 through the first several innings against right handed pitching went a long way towards making Gardy look like a dope. Then, in the 8th inning, Kubel came in to pinch hit against a right handed reliever, and popped a bloop double down the left field line. So he did his job, which was to make Gardy look like even more of a dope.
I fail to see how getting .555 OPS production out of the DH spot is a valid way to protect yourself from having to pinch hit for a lefty against a lefty late in the game. Especially when you prove your willingness to pinch hit your DH platoon late in the game. Could Kubel have gotten a hit off Weaver during tonight’s game, and perhaps driven in a couple of runs? His .810 OPS says he has a considerably better chance of it than Monroe did. Maybe Gardy will “look at the numbers again.” Then again, maybe he won’t.
It’s always good to get a win, and to start the season off on the right foot. But we’re going to have to get better production from the offense with men in scoring position. And Gardy’s going to have to learn that when it comes to OPS, higher is better!