Twins stumble in opening day loss to ChiSox
By Mike Berardino
St. Paul Pioneer Press
CHICAGO — Ricky Nolasco spent parts of two seasons with Alejandro De Aza on the Marlins, so he knows all about the surprising pop the left fielder can generate from the left side.
Monday’s 5-3 Opening Day loss for the Twins brought another reminder.
Two reminders, actually.
De Aza’s two-run homer in the second inning gave the Chicago White Sox the early lead, and his solo homer in the sixth gave them a little cushion on a rainy afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Not since Minnie Minoso in 1960 had a White Sox hitter delivered two homers on Opening Day before the home crowd.
“He just put a couple good swings on a couple balls,” said Nolasco, the Twins’ right-hander. “As a hitter, even if it’s not a bad pitch, they still have to put a good swing on it, and he did.”
The first homer came off a 2-1 cutter that Nolasco left over the middle of the plate. The second homer for De Aza, who went deep a career-high 17 times last year, came on a first-pitch fastball on the outer half.
“Obviously, a couple mistakes that got hit,” Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “On a better day, they miss those mistakes. What are you going to do? Game of inches, but it happens.”
Suzuki, batting second, drove in all three Twins runs with a pair of two-out singles, but it wasn’t nearly enough for an offense that managed just two extra-base hits and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
White Sox lefty Chris Sale struck out eight in 7ƒ innings as the Twins fell on Opening Day for the sixth straight season. That’s two games longer than their previous long skid in season openers, in which they are 24-30 overall.
Nolasco, signed to a four-year, $49 million contract this offseason, worked six innings on 93 pitches and was victimized at times by a swirling wind that played havoc with balls in the air.
Jose Abreu’s leadoff double in the second sailed over the head of right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, who was stunned when the ball carried farther than expected.
Three batters later, De Aza homered to open the scoring. He had faced Nolasco just four times previously, singling once and striking out once.
“The wind was affecting everything pretty much,” Twins left fielder Josh Willingham said. “You just didn’t really know what it was going to do to the ball. Anything up high, it was a big-time issue. Even when it was low, it was carrying.”
Willingham, who went 0 for 4, managed a nice running catch on Marcus Semien’s line shot to the warning track in the fifth.
This was the third Opening Day start of Nolasco’s career. He also drew the honor for the Marlins in 2009 and 2013, both times against the Washington Nationals.
After allowing 10 hits to the White Sox, Nolasco fell to 1-2 on Opening Day with a 6.00 earned-run average. He dropped to 0-2 with 6.63 ERA in three career starts at U.S. Cellular Field.
In 19 innings here, he has allowed 14 earned runs on 28 hits, including four homers. He could pitch here as many as 11 more times during the term of his Twins contract, but he insisted he has no quarrel with The Cell.
“I have no complaints,” he said. “I threw really well here last year. Everybody has to deal with it. Can’t make excuses, can’t complain. You go out there and do your job the best you can, and (Monday) they were the better team.”
Center fielder Aaron Hicks went 2 for 3 with a double, all against Sale. Hicks opened his rookie season in 2013 with just two hits in his first 49 at-bats, and his first extra-base hit didn’t come until his 19th game and 77th plate appearance.
“Our starter threw the ball pretty decent,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “A couple mistakes, and De Aza made us pay a couple of times. He whacked ‘em pretty good.”
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