UPDATE: Twins find unexpected perfect start to season
MINNEAPOLIS -- For a third time in three games, the Twins exchanged high-fives at the mound at Target Field, celebrating a 5-3 victory Thursday and a perfect start to the season that few saw coming.
A team that lost 103 games a year ago opened 2017 with a three-game sweep, outscoring the Kansas City Royals 21-5 in the series, their first sweep of their American League Central rival since April 2014.
The Twins managed just two three-game sweeps all of last season.
“I don’t want to make too much out of it, but it beats the alternative as we know all too well from just a year ago,” manager Paul Molitor said. “To get a couple wins under our belt early, it’s got to make those players feel awfully good about what they’re doing.” [related_articles location="right" show_article_date="false" article_type="automatic-primary-tag"]
These Twins, who are off to the best start of any Twins squad in a decade, are mostly the same ones that opened last season 0-9.
And yet, the early results have been vastly different.
“We set out a mission in spring training to iron a lot of things out,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Our talent matches up with anybody. It’s just about doing the little things right. And I think it’s paid off already. We’re moving guys over, being disciplined at the plate, drawing walks to create big innings, and our pitching has been unbelievable. If we can keep all that together, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
The Twins drew seven more walks Thursday after compiling 16 the first two games.
But in their latest win, back-to-back-to-back hits from Miguel Sano, Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning and drove in the go-ahead runs.
“We hung in there and found a way to withstand a comeback and find a way to score late,” Molitor said.
Thursday afternoon’s win in front of 16,078 wasn’t as crisp as the Twins’ first two victories. But they overcame a misplaced throw by Danny Santana that brought in a run in the fifth, and avoided disaster in the sixth inning when reliever Ryan Pressly got out of a bases-loaded jam.
Pressly was awarded the game ball for his work navigating the Twins out of trouble.
“Whenever you win, you want to play it up as much as you can,” starting pitcher Kyle Gibson said. “That’s what we’re doing here. A couple years ago it was dancing. This year we’re just trying to make sure we don’t take for granted any wins.”
In his first start of the season, Gibson cruised through four innings with four strikeouts, allowing only one hit. But trouble arose in the fifth, and Gibson had little response.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez drove a 90-mph fastball into the upper deck in left field to lead off the fifth, and three batters later Paulo Orlando crossed the plate for Kansas City’s second run.
Gibson lasted only two batters in the sixth inning because the first, Mike Moustakas, deposited a change-up into the barren right-field bleachers, and the second, Lorenzo Cain, smacked a well-hit single.
That put a bitter end to Gibson’s debut, which began so promisingly after he didn’t allow a hit to the first 10 batters he faced. He was pulled after only 81 pitches, but Molitor insisted there was plenty to be pleased by.
“There were a lot of good things about how Kyle threw the ball,” Molitor said.
The Twins opened the scoring in the second behind RBIs from Polanco and Eddie Rosario, who drove in Sano and Castro. In the fifth, a Max Kepler double off the wall scored Dozier.
Brandon Kintzler earned his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning that closed the Twins’ first sweep since May 2016.
“We have high expectations,” Molitor said. “I don’t think we put limitations on what we can do. But I know with six months of baseball ahead, I’m not going to get too giddy. I’m sure pleased that we were able to come out and play well in the opening series.”