After a year and a half away from the ballpark, Thursday afternoon’s game was the perfect welcome back for the 9,675 fans who were able to snag tickets to the Minnesota Twins’ home opener at Target Field.
Save for a 16-minute rain delay in the middle of the fourth inning, the weather held off and the cloud cover started to clear near the end of the Twins’ 10-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners. There were home runs from the more likely power sources — Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton — and one from an unlikely source — Luis Arraez. And there was a solid start from pitcher José Berríos, which garnered a standing ovation and was met with a hat tip.
All that was made much sweeter for the Twins (5-2) by having it come in a stadium with fans — even one that wasn’t close to full capacity because of pandemic restrictions — rather than an empty ballpark like they played in all of last season.
“It was fantastic to be out there and have our fans there. It felt like there were a lot of people in the stands, I’ll be honest with you, and for us to go out there and play a nice ballgame for them makes it all the better,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was a great day from top to bottom. Couldn’t ask for more, and it was a lot of fun, too.”
Berríos, who allowed no hits in six innings against Milwaukee in his first start of the season last week, ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning but limited the damage to just a run, stranding the bases loaded. He also allowed a solo home run late in his start. But he helped himself defensively throughout his start by picking off a pair of runners.
“His stuff looked great. He was consistent. He was attacking the zone really,” said Garver, the Twins catcher. “He knew the opponent we were facing today was gonna keep him in the strike zone, so wasn’t a lot of chase pitches. You’ve got to get them out in the zone. He did a really good job with that. I think he actually got better the third time through the lineup.”
Berríos pitched with a lead for much of his start after the Twins surged ahead of the Mariners (3-4) with a four-run third inning. Back-to-back doubles from Jorge Polanco and Kyle Garlick tied the score at 1-1 before Garver’s three-run homer disappeared deep into the junipers in center field.
Two innings later, Buxton followed with a solo home run. Buxton riled up the fans — multiple times, actually — while falling a triple shy of the cycle. During his later at-bats, fans started chanting “MVP!” at him. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons also added three hits, and Arraez drove in three runs. His home run was his first since Sept. 25, 2019.
He may have had some good vibes on his side, thanks to Nelson Cruz.
“I touched his hands and then I said, ‘Nellie, give me a little pop. Give me a little pop.’ And then I think he gave me a lot of pop for the homer,” Arraez said.
All that made for a pretty good show for the baseball-starved hometown crowd.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment a really long time. Everybody knows here the fans are great people. They like baseball and are always cheering for us no matter what happens out there,” Berríos. “Today I had that first day with the crowd cheering for me and congratulating me. I felt so happy.”