TORONTO — If you were waiting for the Twins’ bats to come alive and the Minnesota to finally look like the team they can be, your wait is over. The Twins finished off their opening series against the Blue Jays of Toronto with a 4-3 win. It was a Danny Valencia homer in the 3rd and a Denard Span homer in the ninth that propelled the Twins to their first win of the season.
There was no more silent bats for the Twins. Minnesota totaled 10 hits Sunday, scoring four and hitting two big time home runs. And if that wasn’t good enough news, one of the big hitters for the Twins finally took off; Jason Kubel went 2-3 with a run scored. RBI’s were had by Valencia and Span on their homers, but also by Matt Tolbert who batted in a run in the 5th on a single to left and Tsuyoshi Niskioka said konnichiwa to pitch from jays starter Brett Cecil and banged it into left scoring Drew Butera.
It was nice to see the bats for the Twins not floundering like they have been the previous two games and perhaps it can be a bit of a confidence booster going into a huge showdown in the Bronx with the Yankees starting tomorrow.
Another department that needed a boost was the pitching game. Nick Blackburn, a guy who is as capable of collapsing as he is putting in a solid performance, gave the pitching rotation a boost Sunday. Blackburn went 5 2/3 innings fanning two and giving up two runs, one earned on 6 hits.
Blackburn looked pretty impressive in stark contrast to the starts by Pavano and Liriano the two games previous. Blackburn threw 14 first pitch strikes to the 24 batters he face, which is better than Liriano managed on Saturday. Blackburn did get chased by the Jays in the sixth when Jose Bautista homered to lead off the innings, but Blackburn settled down and Jose Mijares came in to face two batters and escape the innings.
The only problem on Sunday was the nerves of the bullpen. And by bullpen, that means Joe Nathan. Nathan made his first appearance since having Tommy John surgery a year ago and he picked up where he left off.
On shakey ground.
He has an excuse now being that he has just come off major elbow surgery, but he looked the same as he did before. Nathan gave up 2 hits and a run while walking two as well. He got away with the save, but much to Twins fans disliking, he made it a close shave. His outing is shadowed by the two three up, three down innings pitched by Matt Capps and Glenn Perkins.
The upside is that Nathan’s arm looked healthy and if he’s picking up where he left off, at least where he left off he was healthy.
The Twins are 1-2 and are faced with an incredibly steep uphill climb to balance themselves as they head to the Bronx for the next three games. If we’re still picking up where we left off, the Twins got swept by the Yankees in the ALDS last season which ended their season. Minnesota won’t face C.C. Sabathia until Tuesday and could hypothetically beat Ivan Nova as the Twins send Baker to the mound. But that’s the problem:
They’re sending Baker to the mound.
He’ll have to prove he can be consistent before any Twins fan can feel confident with him starting any game let alone one in Yankee Stadium. After the Yankee series were the Twins can very realistically go 1-5 heading into their home opener against the A’s on Friday. The Yankee series marks the middle of a stretch where the Twins endurance will be challenged as starting with Opening Day, they play 11 straight games in as many days.
But the rust appears to be shaken off and nothing would boost this Twins squad like taking two of three from the Bombers. Because this team has too much talent to to continue to hang their hats on winning just one game a year against the Yankees.
Next 3 Up:
Mon. – @NYY (Baker vs Nova)
Tue. - @NYY (Duensing vs Sabathia)
Wed. -@NYY (Pavano, 0-1 vs Garcia, 0-0)