The Minnesota Twins accomplished a feat today that hasn’t been done in Minnesota since the fall of 2010. They won the rubber match of a 3 game series against the Detroit Tigers, making it the first time they’ve won a series with the Tigers at Target Field since September, 2010. Last year and the year before they went just 2-7 at home against Detroit. Today marks the first day the Twins have been over .500 since the end of 2010. A big part of the series victory this opening week is a result of the three new arms that head the starting rotation. Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey all had solid outings that kept the Twins in the ballgame until late – unfamiliar territory compared to the struggles of the starting staff in 2012.
On Opening Day Vance Worley took the ball against one of the best pitchers in the game in Justin Verlander, and if nothing else, outlasted him. Worley threw 101 pitches over 6 innings, giving up 8 (mostly weak) hits, 3 earned runs, walked just 1 and struck out 3. He pitched himself out of a jam or two along the way and ultimately gave this potentially potent Twins lineup a chance in the end. Most impressively, of his 18 outs, 13 were ground outs, 3 were strike outs, and the other two were weak pop outs to Pedro Florimon. Last year’s MVP Miguel Cabrera hit three groundballs to Florimon in his three at bats, as Worley had most of the Tigers a little off balance all day. Grade: B
On Wednesday Kevin Correia took the hill, a guy who many Twins fans didn’t give a chance after signing with the Twins this off-season. His somewhat mediocrity in the National League combined with a rough spring had expectations about as low as possible heading into the season. Correia temporarily silenced the critics by efficiently going 7 innings in 97 pitches, gave up 7 hits, just 2 earned runs, a walk and 2 strike outs. Cabrera hit two singles off of Correia, but fellow slugger Prince Fielder was shut down in 3 at bats. Correia also induced a good amount of ground outs, 10, to go with 6 fly outs. He turned the game over to Jared Burton in the 8th down 2-1, a perfect spot set up for an Eduardo Escobar game-winner. Grade: B+
Today Mike Pelfrey took the mound for the first time since April 21, 2012. Less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and threw 96 pitches in 5.1 innings. He gave up 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out just 1 Tigers hitter. He gave up 2 runs, however both were unearned due to errors by Joe Mauer and Florimon, and what could have been called an error on Justin Morneau in the 1st inning. Pelfrey again went into damage control to get the game into the 6th before handing it over to the bullpen – who gave up just a run in 8.1 innings in the series – with a 3-2 lead. Pelfrey, like Worley and Correia, was a ground ball machine, inducing 11 ground outs and just 4 flyouts. Grade: B+
It was a cold opening week at Target Field this week, and the three new starters took advantage of that. Moving their sinkers in and out, they induced a ton of ground balls, and the whole staff failed to give up a home run all series. In fact outside of a cue shot double by Fielder in the 1st and a line drive double by Torii Hunter in the 3rd against Worley, the three new starters didn’t give up another extra base hit. It would be one thing if we were talking about pitching against the Astros, but we’re talking about the Detroit Tigers – the team that finished 3rd in the AL in hitting last year and went to the World Series. If these three newcomers can be consistent, pitch deep into games, and keep the Twins in games, we might see a few less empty seats as July and August approach.
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