Twins cool off Royals in opener

Twins cool off Royals in opener

MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Gomez has long boasted that he won the majority of foot races between him and Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, the man considered to be one of the fastest in baseball.

And judging by the way he played Friday night, he might soon be able to add another speedster -- Royals outfielder Joey Gathright -- to the list of guys he can beat in a foot race.

The Twins got a glimpse at the type of impact Gomez could have on their lineup in the Opening Day win over the Angels.

And on Friday, they saw once again just how big of a spark he can be in the Twins' 4-3 victory over the Royals at the Metrodome.

Gomez tallied three hits, tying a career high, and scored a run for the Twins -- helping the team to pull off its second one-run victory of the season.

But it may have been Gomez's first hit of the night that had the biggest impact.

Twins starter Scott Baker looked a tad shaky at the start of his outing, and the Royals took advantage. Gathright led off the game by bunting a ball to second baseman Matt Tolbert and beating out the throw. Gathright then stole second base to put himself in scoring position and scored on a groundout later in the inning. It was one of two runs Kansas City tallied in the first.

But unlike their previous game, in which the Twins fell into an early hole only to watch a late comeback fall short, this time the team matched the Royals with virtually the same play.

Gomez drag bunted down the first-base line to lead off the first and reached base easily. During Joe Mauer's at-bat, Gomez stole second and then scored on Mauer's single up the middle to pull the Twins within one, 2-1.

"That was huge," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We kind of came right back at them. It definitely boosted us in the dugout."

It was just part of the spark Gomez provided on the night. The center fielder stole two bases on Friday night, the second time he's recorded multiple steals in a game this season.

He showed off his other offensive skills too, taking advantage of the defense playing in on him in the fourth to hit a single to the hole between shortstop and third. He then laced a double into left field in his final at-bat in the seventh. And that's all in addition to making some solid catches in center field.


"Every day I go to home and take myself down, sleep, eat a lot and come the next day with new energy. That's because when everybody plays one game, I feel like we play six or seven."
-- Twins center fielder
Carlos Gomez

Watching Gomez run all over the field and help generate the offense was enough to make Baker exhausted.

"I think if I played like he did, I would be dead after the game," Baker said. "The way he plays just wears you out after watching him. But he was incredible. If he continues to do that, I have a feeling we're going to have some pretty good ballgames."

Gomez's early run did help propel the Twins' offense. Mauer and Michael Cuddyer delivered back-to-back singles in third inning. Justin Morneau then broke an 0-for-13 streak by hitting an RBI single to left.

"I felt pretty good swinging tonight, although the stats probably don't look like it," said Morneau, who went 1-for-4 while grounding into two double plays and striking out swinging. "But you know it felt good to get up there and get a hit with guys on base."

The Twins did suffer a loss on Morneau's single when Cuddyer dislocated his right index finger sliding into third base. Jason Kubel pinch-ran for Cuddyer and scored in the next at-bat when Delmon Young grounded out to first.

It was a night full of manufacturing runs for the club. The Twins took the lead in the sixth inning off Royals left-handed starter Jon Bale when Mike Lamb scored from third on a suicide squeeze with shortstop Adam Everett at the plate.

Baker (1-0) was able to bounce back from his slow start to record a solid outing. After allowing a one-out RBI single to John Buck in the second, Baker retired 11 straight batters. Coming off a rough spring, which included a strained lat muscle and a bad case of the flu, Baker was pleased with the results of his first start, giving up just the three runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.

Pat Neshek replaced Baker and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings before Joe Nathan came in and recorded his second save of the season.

For the Twins, it was another well-executed victory. One driven by a player they like to call "Go-Go."

"He gets on base, and it changes a game," Justin Morneau said. "It's amazing how fast he is. He's as fast as anyone I've seen on a baseball field."

It's just that speed might be as exhausting on Gomez as it is on his teammates who watch him.

"Every day I go to home and take myself down, sleep, eat a lot and come the next day with new energy," Gomez said. "That's because when everybody plays one game, I feel like we play six or seven."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.