MINNEAPOLIS -- Some teams savor Opening Day victories with cold beer, pizza and cigars.
The Minnesota Twins savored their 3-2 victory over the Angels on Monday night with a little extra practice.
As a sellout crowd of 49,596 filed toward the Metrodome exits, several new Twins, including Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young, went back onto the field to work on catching popups in that pesky roof.
"They said win or lose, we're doing popups after the game," second baseman Brendan Harris said. "It makes it a little better doing it after a win."
That's how foreign everything feels for a team that had newcomers filling seven of 10 spots on the lineup card, including starting pitcher Livan Hernandez.
Yet for one night, almost everything the Twins did over six months to restructure the team seemed to work.
Hernandez showed some guts. Gomez showed some serious speed.
Young, Harris and Mike Lamb showed they could hit, combining to go 5-for-11.
Angels center fielder Torii Hunter went 0-for-4 and was reduced to a helpless bystander as the New Twins Express spoiled his homecoming.
The Angels tied the score with two runs in the fifth inning, but Gomez put the Twins back ahead that inning, scoring on a single by Michael Cuddyer through a drawn-in infield.
Manager Ron Gardenhire remained unflinching with the lead, keeping Hernandez in the game, and the righthander responded by pitching a 1-2-3 sixth and 1-2-3 seventh.
"I think you all saw a veteran who really knows how to pitch and can handle that atmosphere of Opening Day," Gardenhire said. "Man, he stepped up. That was a real pleasure to watch him pitch against a very aggressive team over there."
Hernandez improved to 4-3 with a 4.65 ERA in eight Opening Day starts. He held the Angels to seven hits with no walks and a strikeout.
"It's special," Hernandez said. "I've never pitched in the American League. And to get the win, that was very important."
Pat Neshek looked like he might sail through the eighth inning, but things got tense when Gary Matthews Jr., dropped one of those pesky Metrodome popups into short left field for a double.
That set up a classic battle between Neshek and Vladimir Guerrero. Neshek knocked Guerrero to the dirt with a 2-2 pitch and then struck him out with a high fastball.
Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for the save, striking out Hunter for the second out. The whole night made Nathan savor his newly signed four-year, $47 million contract.
"I think it just goes to show why I wanted to stay here and why this club can win," Nathan said. "I'm not saying one game's going to show anything, but it shows the talent we do have, it shows the potential we have, it shows how young we are.
"I'm glad to know I'm going to be here for at least four more years."
The highlight of the night was Gomez going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two stolen bases and two runs scored.
But Hernandez, Young, Lamb and Harris provided plenty of positive new twists, as well.
"I think that's exactly what the Twins brought those guys over here for," Nathan said. "Because they do play the game the right way when they step between the lines."
And some nights, they'll keep playing, apparently, even after the game ends and everyone else is headed home.
-- Copyright (c) 2008, Minneapolis Star
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