Nothing like a 3-0 start and a sweep of the Royals in front of the (very small) home crowd to help us all relax a little after the 0-9 start and painful season last year. It’s only 3 games, but the Twins did a lot of things that are conducive to winning and showed important signs of what has to happen for them to have more success this year than current popular opinion is predicting.
Here are the main reasons the Twins swept KC:
1) Ervin Santana was classic Ervin (as I said in the last post, “thank goodness”). He will give the Twins a chance to win most times out, and his opening day start was a gem. Exactly what the young hitters needed to allow them to relax a bit.
2) Defense. Solid job of making all the routine plays that have to be made plus some web gems from Buxton, Dozier, Escobar and Santana. Key to winning is to not give the other team extra outs and then to steal some on top of that. Check and check in the opening series.
3) Fundamentals. The opening day win was predicated on getting the job done on sacrifice bunts–which set the stage for a big inning. “Fundamental” offense includes taking what opposing pitchers will give you. True, the KC pitchers were terrible walking the ballpark, but the Twins didn’t help them/let them off the hook. “You can’t put a good swing on a bad ball,” and the young hitters let the game unfold as it should have. Two fundamentals negatives in game 3, though: Danny Santana failing to sacrifice and Buxton failing to get a runner from 2B to 3B with 0 outs. Mauer followed with what would have been a sac fly and could have been a huge run. All in all, though 3 very clean games.
4) Bullpen. Everybody pitched and most everybody pitched well. The starters went 7, 5 and 5 innings. Bullpen shut down the rest. The bullpen started the season extremely under-appreciated. So far so good. Of special note: Rodgers punctuated that he is extra nasty vs LH hitters, and Kintzler’s stuff and location were excellent–two extremely important pieces this year.
5) Offense. Oh, have I mentioned before that I think the young kids can hit? With the exception of Buxton (gulp), everybody up and down the lineup had 3 days of really good at bats. Kepler and Rosario were really good. Polanco had one good at bat after another. Dozier was solid. Castro was terrific. And, the most exciting: Sano looked totally under control. If the big man stays in the center of the diamond with his approach this year like he did in these first 3…wow, we’re gonna have some fun.
Such an important start for these young players to expunge the cloud of last year’s start and give them confidence going forward.
So, Twins fans enjoy what you saw in the opening series. It won’t always be so–there will be some rough spots and losing streaks and hand-wringing still to come this year–but these 3 games gave us a glimpse of what’s possible this year and, especially, for some really good years to come. And…doesn’t it feel good for us all to relax just a little bit?