Let the Games Begin

The Twins finally bring home the 2002 edition

"I try to stay out of the game as much as possible as a manager," Gardenhire said afterward. "I like to give the guys a shot at it to see what they can do. It shows my confidence in them, and I have confidence in every one of these guys. I love it when our players look back at me to see if I'm going to make a change and I just blow 'em a kiss and say, 'Go get 'em.'"

Sunday afternoon the rookie manager showed he can also push the buttons and pull the levers when he needs to. In the bottom of the eighth, with the Twins trailing 7-5, Pierzynski led off with a single and Gardenhire sent up Bobby Kielty to pinch hit for Denny Hocking. Kielty, a switch-hitter, was batting just .125 in only eight at-bats, all against lefthanders. Detroit manager Luis Pujols went to hard-throwing righty Matt Anderson, his closer, and Kielty responded with a long home run to tie the game. After Anderson subsequently loaded the bases, Gardenhire took a page out of the Kelly playbook and pinch-hit David Ortiz for Matt LeCroy, who'd gone three-for-four with a triple and two doubles off knuckleballer Steve Sparks. Ortiz promptly delivered a bases-clearing triple that turned a tie game into a blowout and made Gardenhire look like a genius.

Earlier, LeCroy's first Major League triple--and a slide that could charitably be called inelegant--was one of the highlights of the home stand. "It was a lot of fun watching Big Matty going around the bases like that," Gardenhire commented. "Let's just say that that slide was very entertaining for our dugout."

It was clear from the mood in the clubhouse all weekend that this team, and this manager, are looking forward to having a lot of fun all summer--and for Twins fans that might be the best news of all.



A LOT OF people were scratching their heads over Gardenhire's early announcement that he planned to use Jacque Jones (he of the career .327 on-base percentage) as his leadoff hitter and intended to leave him in there against lefthanders, against whom he hit just .182 in limited duty last year. Thus far Jones has rewarded Gardenhire's confidence: Through Sunday he was hitting .358 with an OBP of .435. After drawing just 39 walks a year ago, Jones has already drawn eight bases on balls, compared to just five strikeouts. Leading off against Tigers lefthander Mark Redman in Friday's opener, Jones lashed a single to left center for his first hit against a lefty in 2002; he also drew a walk in the four-run second inning.

THE TWINS HAVE batted just .221 against lefties through the first 13 games. Corey Koskie, who batting just .250, is finding a way to get on base: He has ten walks and a .411 OBP. LeCroy and Ortiz now have more triples than Cristian Guzman, who led the league in each of the last two seasons.

LAST NOTES FROM opening night: The Twins are 24-18 in home openers, including 5-2 vs. Detroit. Former governor Wendell Anderson has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch an astonishing six times. Another former governor, Rudy Perpich, is second on the list, with three trips to the mound. Gophers basketball coach Clem Haskins had the honor twice. Carl Pohlad's mother, Mary Kieffer, made the first toss in 1994. In Saturday night's pregame celebrity home run derby, the guy in the bear suit defeated KSTP's Joe Schmit and hockey Olympian Krissy Wendell of Brooklyn Park.

CONTRACTION WATCH: Bud Selig's Brewers were 3-9 through the weekend, and now have more strikeouts (99) than hits (96). The team broke a seven-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory at San Francisco on Sunday.


Brad Zellar will go Yard every Monday afternoon--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.

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