My grip on reality is that much more tenuous because this really was an impressive win. The Twins not only beat down a great pitcher tonight, they beat down a great left-handed pitcher - maybe second only to Johan right now in the American League. Erik Bedard turned a corner mid-year last year, posting a 3.10 ERA after the All-Star break with 83 strikeouts in 87 innings. He was just as hot in spring training, with a 0.95 ERA(!) and 21 K in 19 innnings. The boy can pitch.
And pitch he did tonight. The first home run against him was a 93 MPH fastball in the lower zone on the outer half of the plate to Justin Morneau. It was NOT a mistake. But Morneau sweated out the extra fraction of a second to wait and drive it to the opposite field, lifting it into the bleachers. It was a very good pitch undone by an unbelivable swing.
That wasn't all. The pitch to Hunter wasn't much worse. A little less fast, a little higher, but still outer half of the plate. However, Hunter did the same thing that Morneau did - driving it over the opposite field fence, showing patience and poise. The same thing happened when Luis Castillo ignited the three-run rally - fast ball, outer half, driven to the opposite field. And Hunter's double that drove Bedard from the game was another blast to the opposite field, made more impressive because he had to further wait on a breaking ball.
So the Twins faced one of the better left-handed starters in the AL tonight, who did not have an off night, and still managed to score six runs and drive him from the game in less than five innings with some exceptionally patient hitting. There are still plenty of questions left to answer about this team, and I'll wait on some of them. But tonight I think I'm going to let hyperbole whisper some of her sweet nothings in my ear. And believe.
An Opening Night wouldn't be right without some random notes....
- Culinary development 1: We didn't have tickets to the game, but we went to the plaza anyway. The Boy™ had developed a fondness for cheese curds, so we bought him a bowl at the booth outside the dome. Before I go any further, you need to understand - I know cheese curds. I have ordered cheese curds at just about every place that curds cheese. And I have to tell you those may have been the best cheese curds I have ever had. Ever. I'm willing to accept the ruling of a nonpartial judge who would know a little about these things. If only Matty had made the 25-man roster.
- It looked like some bad baserunning tonight, but all three of the glaring mistakes were caused by that rocket launcher that Nick Markakis has had grafted to his left shoulder. He was like a character from a Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodruguez production.
A ground ball to right field should score a runner from second, but the play at home on Morneau wasn't even close (Mistake #1). Third base coach Scott Ullger learned his lesson and held Joe Mauer from scoring on Morneau's shot off the baggy (#2) and then Morneau was thrown out again by Markakis trying to make that a double (#3).
I suppose this is where I'm supposed to savage someone, but sometimes you just gotta tip your hat. In the Metrodome, where right field is so short, the new rule is you think twice about playing anything more than station-to-station against Markakis. And I'm good with that.
- The waitress comes over and asks if we would like anything else. The Chatty Chatty Princess™ replies "More root beer," and begins to down the rest of her 1919 vintage. The waitress look at us and says "Wow, she's really chugging that, huh?"
I'm pretty sure I've lived that exact moment more than once about 15 years ago. Only TCCP was The Voice of Reason. And there was no "root".
- The Twins did have one thing going for them tonight, and it might have played a pretty big factor in the win. Umpire Joe West looked like he was struggling tonight, and especially looked like he was struggling with calling Bedard's curve ball. It's a pretty nasty pitch, with a huge break, and umpires can have trouble picking up exactly where it is when it crosses the plate. It looked like Bedard didn't use it as much as he wanted to, relied more on fastballs, and that may have hurt him.
- Immediately after watching the replay of (the incredibly fragile) Rondell White's fantastic catch...
TCCP: Daddy, did he hurt himself?
TG: I'm sure he did, dear. I'm sure he did.
- Had the Twins not one, we would be taling about throwing a hanging breaking ball to Corey Patterson. Talk about a bone-headed pitch. Patterson is TERRIBLE against left-handed pithers, so just rock and fire. To screw around with that pitch with two out when you're almost out of a jam is almost unforgivable.
- Culinary Development #2 - Tonight, not one, but BOTH kids became fans of the cinnamon roasted almonds. Which means I now have clearance to buy them and shove them down my maw until I am physically nauseous. Which I did anyway. But now I have clearance.
- Things have definitely become a little less fun since Bert's suspension. Last year, would Dick Bremer have gotten away with this quote without a verbal jab from Bert?
"One of the great hookers of all time is here analyzing the game - Rick Sutcliffe."
("I didn't know Heidi Fleiss was in the state.")