MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins had to bundle up for their home opener.
The extra layers sure didn’t limit their strength.
Mitch Garver hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh, one inning after Miguel Sano tied the game with a two-run shot, and the Twins powered their way past the Seattle Mariners for a 4-2 victory on Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can hit it over,” manager Paul Molitor said.
They’ve got more guys who can throw it over, too, thanks to a bunch of offseason additions to the pitching staff.
After Eddie Rosario went deep in the eighth to pad the lead, Fernando Rodney worked the ninth for his first save with the Twins. That capped a stretch of 4 2/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen in relief of Kyle Gibson. Zach Duke (1-0) picked up the victory, and Addison Reed striking out two in a perfect eighth.
“They’re lights out,” Garver said.
James Paxton started strong for the Mariners with five scoreless innings after a first-pitch temperature of 38 degrees and a startling moment during the pregame ceremony. The bald eagle that was supposed to fly to the mound before the national anthem instead circled Paxton, a Canadian, where he was standing alone in left field on a break from his warmup throws. The confused bird wound up landing its large talons on the lefty’s right shoulder , before being lured away by the handler.
“Nothing hurts. I was more thinking about the game,” Paxton said.
The remarkable poise shown by Paxton was challenged in the sixth, when Joe Mauer started with a single. Sano followed with a drive off a 1-2 curveball into the second deck, the only one of Minnesota’s 12 home runs this season that has come with a runner on base.
“He made one mistake only,” Sano said. “When he makes a mistake, you have to get it.”
Rodney, who gave up the game-winning home run on opening day at Baltimore last week in the 11th inning, walked Dee Gordon to start the ninth. Gordon stole second base as Jean Segura struck out, but Rodney retired the next two on a grounder and a line drive. That gave the sellout crowd of 39,214 at Target Field the chance to see the 41-year-old’s signature arrow-shooting move after a successful save, which he aimed toward a red bulls-eye high above right-center field, the logo for Target, the eight-year-old ballpark’s corporate namesake.
“A little cold today for 41,” Rodney said, “but we’re here. I feel good. I’m in good shape.”
Garver’s drive, his first major league homer, reached the second deck, too, against Dan Altavilla (0-1).
Gibson beat the Orioles last week with six hitless innings, but he was behind 2-0 after the first against the Mariners following consecutive singles by Gordon and Segura to begin the game. Mitch Haniger drove in Gordon on a grounder to third, where Sano threw wildly past Garver on the attempt to get the runner at the plate. Then Daniel Vogelbach sent Segura home with a two-out single.
“Opportunities are there. Guys are doing a good job getting on base,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve just got to continue to execute better with guys on third base, less than two outs.”
The sun was shining for the first half of the game, making the conditions more tolerable than anticipated following an early-spring storm that dumped about 8 inches of wet snow on Target Field until ceasing on Tuesday night. Twins employees brought shovels to the ballpark on Wednesday to help clear the playing surface .
There’s no game on Friday, a good thing considered the forecast high of 23 degrees, but the weekend weather is on track to be just as wintry. The snow could return on Sunday, and the temperatures aren’t supposed to go much above 30.
“Nothing we can do,” Rodney said. “Just try to get out of the inning as quick as we can.”
Mariners: Catcher Mike Zunino, on the DL with a strained left oblique muscle, will be slowed down in his rehab program to be safe, Servais said, considering the cold weather in Minnesota this weekend.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana, on the DL following surgery on his middle finger, is behind the original schedule for recovery. The club is considering another medical examination for the ace, Molitor said.
Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 2.57 ERA) is scheduled to start on Saturday afternoon. He pitched seven innings for the victory in his season debut.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the middle game of the series, coming off the first complete-game shutout of his career.
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