Twins power past Jays
By Gordon Wittenmyer
Knight Ridder Newspapers
TORONTO -- If there's anything the Minnesota Twins figure they can use more than a good night's sleep in their own beds, it's a good sleeper hold on the Cleveland Indians in a four-game grudge match that opens today at Jacobs Field.
The Twins held on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-6 on Sunday at SkyDome to win that four game-series and improve to 5-1.
But the opening week will mean little and be forgotten quickly without a strong showing against a team that pummeled the Twins into second place in 2001 during an otherwise magical Minnesota season.
"It's going to be intense. It's going to be a battle, regardless (of how early in the season it is)," said center fielder Torii Hunter, who drove in three runs Sunday, including two on home run in the fifth inning. "We're going to go out there and have fun."
There was nothing fun for the Twins about playing Cleveland last season. After getting off to a fast start, the Twins didn't face the Indians until June--and wound up losing 15 of 19 games.
"Everyone wants to look at the fact we lost six games against Tampa Bay and attribute us not winning the division to that," said first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who walked and scored in the Twins' four-run first Sunday. "But the reason we didn't win the division was we didn't do well against Cleveland last year. Those are two-game swings every time you play them. If we win two or three or four more games against them, it's a whole different story."
It's a story the Twins want to rewrite this year, starting this afternoon when left-hander Eric Milton (1-0) goes against Cleveland rookie right-hander Ryan Drese (1-0) in Cleveland's home opener.
Manager Ron Gardenhire and Twins players downplayed the importance of the series in the context of a 162-game season grind. But there's no denying emotions will run a little higher this week as the early American League Central co-leaders face off in the final four games before the Twins finally get home for the first time.
"They're in our division, so we want to play well against those guys, but we're just trying to get home right now," Gardenhire said. "We're just trying to get off the road and get home to our fans. Hopefully, we'll go into Cleveland and be ready to play. And I can't imagine us not being ready to play."
Not with the frustrating memories of last year's experiences against Cleveland.
The Twins built a competitive season last year out of dominating most of their division opponents in the first season back to an unbalanced schedule--going 42-15 against the Detroit Tigers (15-4), Chicago White Sox (14-5) and Kansas City Royals (13-6).
But Cleveland's veteran lineup pounded Twins pitching for 10.5 hits and 6.2 runs a game, while the Twins' young hitters were held to two or fewer runs in 12 of the 19 games.