Twins open new stadium with win
The Minnesota Twins are off to a sunny start at Target Field.
After nearly three decades inside the Metrodome, the Twins moved outdoors and beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 Monday behind hometown star Joe Mauer in the first regular-season game at their new ballpark.
Jason Kubel hit the first home run and Carl Pavano earned the first victory.
Red-white-and-blue bunting hung from the ledges and commissioner Bud Selig was in attendance for the celebration, as the crowd of 39,715 snapped cell-phone pictures of the first pitch by Pavano.
The unpredictable spring weather played right along, too, with a blue, breezy 65-degree afternoon.
Pavano (2-0) gave up four hits and one run in six innings and the Twins bullpen backed him up, with Jon Rauch recording his fifth save.
Jon Lester (0-1) labored through five innings for the Red Sox, throwing only 59 of his 107 pitches for strikes.
Kubel homered into the right-field seats in the seventh inning. Kubel and Mauer, the AL MVP, each had three hits and drove in two runs.
Twins baseball started in suburbia in 1961 at Metropolitan Stadium and moved downtown to the Metrodome in 1982, sharing both facilities with the Vikings football team.
Now, in their 50th season, they’ve merged fresh air with city energy in this cozy ballpark of their own with rail tracks, parking ramps and bike racks, warehouses and skyscrapers, and bars and restaurants all around.
They brought back Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and dozens of former players who graced the Met and the Dome, celebrating their history by unveiling a bronze Kirby Puckett statue — depicting his fist pump after he won Game 6 of the 1991 World Series with a homer — and raising their pennant flags on the top deck above left field. The Twins wore 1961 throwback jerseys, too, with a script "Twins" lettering on the front.
The weather was ideal. At least on this day, the fans wouldn’t have minded even a monsoon.
"We’re from Minnesota. We’ve got plenty of rain gear. We fish. We hunt,” said Tony Carlson, who struck poses next to the Puckett statue on the plaza outside before the game with his friend, Bryan Spratt.
"We can see the ball,” Spratt said, comparing Target Field to the Metrodome. "Even if it rains, it’s better.”
Marco Scutaro, batting leadoff for Boston in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, who sat out with sore ribs, got the ballpark’s first official hit, a single to center. He was picked off by Pavano.
The Red Sox were, unusually, a sideshow and not the main attraction on this day the Twins and their fans have been longingly anticipating for more than a decade.
They didn’t wait to get their offense going, either, with Michael Cuddyer driving in Denard Span for the first run and Kubel coming next with his own RBI single.
Even Mauer was more of a background character, with the $545 million, limestone-encased ballpark the star of the day. Not to be totally outdone, though, the $184 million man – his future in Minnesota secured through 2018 — hit an RBI double down the left-field line in the second.
Mauer hit a grounder up the middle that skipped off second base for an RBI single in the fourth when Scutaro couldn’t handle it.
Sputtering designated hitter David Ortiz, who went 2 for 18 with nine strikeouts during the season’s first week, helped his confidence with an RBI double that left fielder Delmon Young nearly caught over his shoulder — but dropped in an awkward collision with the wall in the fourth inning to give the Red Sox their first run.
Pavano had some help in the sixth, from third baseman Nick Punto’s barehand pickup and throw for an out — and then from his own hand on a liner by Victor Martinez. Pavano stopped it, grabbed the ball, got the second out and punched his thigh in reaction to the pain. But after a couple of warmups and trainer and manager approval, Pavano stayed on the mound.
NOTES: This is the fifth time the Red Sox have been the visiting team for the first official game at a new ballpark, though the first since 1923. Boston also helped open Oriole Park (Baltimore, 1901), Shibe Park (Philadelphia, 1909), Griffith Stadium (Washington, 1911) and Yankee Stadium (New York, 1923). The Red Sox lost all five. … Selig said Target Field is a high-priority site for a future All-Star game, possibly as early as 2014. … The first replay review, of Mike Cameron’s drive down the left-field line, upheld third base umpire Mark Wegner’s foul call. Cameron struck out on the next pitch. … Spruce trees planted behind the center-field wall frame the batter’s eye, and until they grow higher it will take a little getting used to seeing the ball at the plate. "We’ll see what happens. We have chainsaws,” manager Ron Gardenhire said jokingly. "If we don’t like it, we’ll just whack ’em.”