Mauer, Twins open Target Field, top Red Sox 5-2
MINNEAPOLIS—The Minnesota Twins have finally moved into their own place. They held the housewarming party outdoors. After 28 seasons inside the dingy Metrodome, the Twins broke in Target Field by beating the Boston Red Sox 5-2 Monday behind hometown star Joe Mauer in the first regular-season game at their new ballpark.
Jason Kubel hit the first home run -- "I'll remember for the rest of my life," he said -- and Carl Pavano earned the first victory.
"I've been waiting a long time," said Mauer, who grew up less than 10 miles away in St. Paul. "It's definitely a special place, and I'm glad it's here."
Red-white-and-blue bunting hung from the ledges and commissioner Bud Selig was in attendance for the celebration, which started hourse before the crowd of 39,715 snapped cell-phone pictures of the first pitch by Pavano.
The unpredictable spring weather played right along, too, with a blue, breezy 65-degree afternoon.
"It was colder in spring training than here today," said center fielder Denard Span, a Florida native who acknowledged concern about the early-season conditions here. "All around, a perfect day for everybody."
On the Twins side, at least.
Pavano (2-0) gave up four hits and one run in six innings and the Twins bullpen backed him up, with Jon Rauch recording his fifth save in as many attempts.
Jon Lester (0-1) struggled for the second straight start and labored through five innings for the Red Sox, throwing only 59 of his 107 pitches for strikes while giving up four runs on nine hits and three walks. He struck out five.
"I just stunk," Lester said. "Didn't make pitches, and I really don't know what else to say."
Kubel hit his home run into the right-field seats in the seventh inning to finish with three hits and two RBIs. Mauer did the same.
"It's only fitting, a Minnesota boy playing in his home ballpark," Span said. "You can't write a better script than that. He's probably going to be doing that about 80 more times here. You guys might want to go ahead and get used to that."
Twins baseball started in suburbia in 1961 at Metropolitan Stadium and moved downtown to the Metrodome in 1982, the year before Mauer was born, sharing both facilities with the Vikings football team.
Now, in their 50th season, they've merged fresh air with city energy in this cozy ballpark of their own with rail tracks, parking ramps and bike racks, warehouses and skyscrapers, and bars and restaurants all around.
"It's beautiful," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who frequently compared the Metrodome to an office building.
The Twins wore 1961 throwback jerseys and brought back Harmon Killebrew, Kent Hrbek and dozens of former players who graced the Met and the Dome to tribute their history. The weather was ideal. At least on this day, the fans wouldn't have minded even a monsoon.
"We're from Minnesota. We've got plenty of rain gear. We fish. We hunt," said Tony Carlson, who struck poses next to the Puckett statue on the plaza outside before the game with his friend, Bryan Spratt.
Marco Scutaro, batting leadoff for Boston in place of Jacoby Ellsbury, who sat out with sore ribs, got the ballpark's first official hit, a single to center. He was picked off by Pavano.
The Red Sox were, unusually, a sideshow and not the main attraction. The Twins got their offense going right away, with Michael Cuddyer driving in Span for the first run and Kubel coming next with his own RBI single.
Even Mauer was more of a background character, with the $545 million, limestone-encased ballpark the star of the day. Not to be totally outdone, though, AL MVP hit an RBI double down the left-field line in the second. Mauer hit a grounder up the middle that skipped off second base for an RBI single in the fourth when Scutaro couldn't handle it.
Sputtering designated hitter David Ortiz, who went 2 for 18 with nine strikeouts during the season's first week, helped his confidence with an RBI double that left fielder Delmon Young nearly caught over his shoulder -- but dropped in an awkward collision with the wall in the fourth inning to give the Red Sox their first run.
"I thought I hit it better than that," Ortiz said, hoping for a homer.
Mike Cameron hit a long drive to center with two out and one on in the seventh, too, that was caught by Span with the Twins leading 4-1. So far, it doesn't look like the ballpark will be a bandbox.
"That's all I got," Cameron said. "I don't know what else to say."
NOTES: This is the fifth time the Red Sox have been the visiting team for the first official game at a new ballpark, though the first since 1923. Boston also helped open Oriole Park (Baltimore, 1901), Shibe Park (Philadelphia, 1909), Griffith Stadium (Washington, 1911) and Yankee Stadium (New York, 1923). The Red Sox lost all five. ... Selig said Target Field is a high-priority site for a future All-Star game, possibly as early as 2014. ... Pavano stopped a line drive in the sixth by Victor Martinez with his hand, grabbing the ball, getting the second out and slapping his thigh in reaction to the pain. Pavano finished the inning and said afterward he was all right. "I was glad to get the out and get out of there," he said.