Put on your hats and lace up your cleats, because baseball season is finally upon us. After a historic 2017 seasons by the Twins, a tumultuous offseason marred by extensive waiting and allegations of owner collusion, and a Spring Training that seemed to last forever, the Twins are back and ready to tackle their big expectations of this season.
The first game of the season is always a special one for a baseball team. Opening against the Orioles in Baltimore, the Twins exchanged jabs in a long, tense loss. Jake Odorizzi, an offseason acquisition from the Tampa Bay Rays, took the mound as the Twins’ number-one starting pitcher. Odorizzi pitched a quality start, striking out seven batters over six innings of work. Even more impressively, he only gave up two apiece in hits and walks — quite an impressive day for the team’s biggest trade over the winter. Addison Reed, another offseason addition to the Twins, pitched two scoreless innings of relief while throwing almost entirely strikes. After almost losing the game in the tenth inning, new closer Fernando Rodney induced a beautiful double play to end the Orioles threat and extend the game.
However, Rodney’s good day came to a swift end when he gave up a walk-off home run to outfielder Adam Jones in the bottom of the eleventh. On the first pitch.
On the offensive side, Twins batters scattered a few hits before plating two runs in the ninth inning to tie the Orioles and send the game into extra innings. Robbie Grossman, pinch-hitting in the ninth, drove in both runs on a single hit during his first plate appearance of the game. Even though the Twins had a few opportunities in extra innings, they were unable to score any runs.
It was a tough opening loss after a great game overall by the team. If the Twins maintain the same intensity and competitiveness all season, they will produce great results.
Projecting the Season
Baseball is inherently a game of statistics. Playing a 162-game season means just about anything can happen in the marathon to October. While individual players are projected to do quite well, the computers are not expecting a strong Twins team overall. The statistical models predict they will win 83 games, just barely squeezing into the second Wild Card spot. Given the immense strength of the Cleveland Indians, a Wild Card berth is the best to which the Twins can aspire. They will have a tough road getting there, having to fend off contenders like the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels and Mariners.
With many strong offseason additions to the roster, the Twins depth chart looks poised for another great season. Brian Dozier, in his last year before free agency, will be worth four whole wins just by himself. Even though ace pitcher Ervin Santana will be out for a month with an injury, the the incredible talents of homegrown Jose Berrios and winter acquisitions Odorizzi and Lance Lynn will anchor the starting staff. Once Santana comes back healthy, they will have an absolutely terrifying pitching rotation. I pray for the American League Central batters that have to face those four pitchers in succession. Miguel Sano is good to go, Logan Morrison is a scary slugger riding a great 2017 campaign, and a reinvigorated Joe Mauer is in the final year of his long contract.