Minnesota enjoying best days of sports year

Minnesota enjoying best days of sports year

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Friday, 06 April 2018
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The best days of the Minnesota sports year are here, and I’m not just saying that because Target Field opens its gates for baseball on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins are, as of this writing, playing their home opener against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon.

Even if the foot of snow the Twin Cities received Tuesday doesn’t melt by game time or more rain and snow moves into the area forcing a postponement, at least Minnesota sports fans will have two more games to watch later that night. Both the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves play games that could affect the postseason, and both play at the same time, which is frustrating and frankly, should be illegal.

Thursday is going to be the best day of the Minnesota sports season. That is until Saturday, April 14, when four professional sports teams in Minnesota could all play on the same day for the first time ever. We know the Twins and Minnesota United FC (MNUFC or Loons for short) will be in action. But with the NBA Playoffs set to begin that same day, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs also underway, Minnesota sports fans could watch their home teams for up to 11 consecutive hours on April 14. The Twins host the Chicago White Sox at 1:10 p.m. CDT and MNUFC’s match in Portland kicks off at 9:30 p.m. That leaves plenty of room in the television schedule for both the Wolves and Wild.

These really are the best days of the Minnesota sports year, and they’ll continue for as long as the Wild and Timberwolves allow. Here’s the potential schedule for the best days of the Minnesota sports year. You’ll notice this is not a complete schedule of upcoming sporting events featuring a team from Minnesota. Days during which just one Minnesota sports team plays a game are not included. Each day listed has the potential for at least two games to be played by a team from Minnesota. All times are Central. Asterisks indicate a potential game not yet scheduled. Check back for updates.

Thursday, April 5

  • MLB Home Opener: Twins vs. Seattle Mariners, 3:10 p.m. on FSN
  • Wild @ Los Angeles Kings, 9:30 p.m. on FSN
  • Timberwolves @ Denver Nuggets, 9:30 p.m. on TNT

Saturday, April 7

  • Twins vs. Seattle Mariners, 1:10 p.m. on FSN
  • Wild @ San Jose Sharks, 9:30 p.m. on FSN

Monday, April 9

  • Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 7 p.m. on FSN Plus
  • Twins vs. Houston Astros, 7:10 p.m. on FSN

Wednesday, April 11

  • Twins vs. Houston Astros, 12:10 p.m. on FSN
  • Timberwolves vs. Denver Nuggets, 7 p.m. on FSN
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1: Wild @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • The NHL has four of its eight first-round playoff games scheduled for Wednesday, April 11. The Wolves are scheduled during primetime on Wednesday, and the Twins are scheduled during primetime on Thursday. If the NHL Western Conference standings remain unchanged, the Wild will pull Winnipeg in the first round, which is a matchup the NHL will no doubt bury on the television schedule. Games will be broadcasted on the least accessible channel at the least accessible time. My money is on the Wild starting the postseason on Wednesday, April 11 since their last regular season game is on April 7. But I’ve included potential games in my schedule if the Wild were to start on Thursday, April 12.

Friday, April 13:

  • Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 7:10 p.m. on FSN
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Wild @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild start the postseason Wednesday, April 11, they’d likely play Game 2 on Friday, April 13.

Saturday, April 14

  • Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m.
  • Minnesota United FC @ Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. on FSN
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1: Timberwolves @ TBD, between 3 and 10:30 p.m. on either ESPN or ABC
    • Like the NHL, the NBA has split its eight first-round games between two consecutive days. With so much time between the Twins game and MNUFC match, I’d bet the Wolves start postseason play on Saturday, April 14. That would give them two days off after their final regular season game against Denver.
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Wild @ TBD, TBD
    • If the Wild start postseason play on Thursday, April 12 instead of Wednesday, April 11, they’d likely play Game 2 on Saturday, making Minnesota sports history by fielding four professional sports teams on the same day for the first time.

Sunday, April 15

  • Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m.
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1: Timberwolves @ TBD, between 3 and 10:30 p.m. on either ABC or ESPN
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3: Wild vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild start the postseason on Wednesday, April 11, Game 3 would be played Sunday.

Monday, April 16

  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Timberwolves @ TBD, at either 7 or 9:30 p.m. on TNT
    • If the Wolves start the postseason on Saturday, April 14, Game 2 could be Monday, but most teams got two days off after Game 1 of their first-round series in last year’s playoffs. Everyone got at least one two-day break over the first three games of the first round.
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3: Wild vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild start the postseason on Thursday, April 12, Game 3 would likely be played on Monday.

Tuesday, April 17

  • Twins vs. Cleveland Indians, 6:10 p.m. on FS1 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
    • José Berríos is scheduled to start this one in his home state of Puerto Rico, just 20 minutes from where he grew up in Bayamon. Berríos is an excitable, emotional player who obviously loves the game. He shed tears of joy when he was drafted by the Twins, who looked past his control issues to draft him with the 32nd overall pick in 2012 because of his electric stuff. If you watched Berríos struggle to an 8.02 ERA over 58.1 innings his rookie year after dominating every level of the minors, you couldn’t help but feel for the guy. With so much natural movement on his pitches — even his four-seam fastball — it’s understandable that throwing them all where he wants — especially his curveball — is a lot easier said than done, as indicated by his first season in the bigs. After allowing 5.4 walks per nine innings his rookie year — at 22 years old — he almost cut that in half the following season. He walked just one Baltimore batter over his first nine innings of the season, and would have had a perfect game going into the ninth inning had Eddie Rosario caught a ball he usually would. While Berríos has been both victimized and vindicated by his passion and emotion, in Baltimore he showed that he’s more mature, both mentally and physically. He worked out of trouble in the ninth inning in Baltimore to earn his first career complete game and shutout because of that mental and physical maturation. The experience he gained playing most of an MLB season with Ervin Santana as a mentor has certainly contributed to Berríos’s confidence to attack the strike zone with all his pitches. And his dedication in the offseason, culminating in a video of him pushing a full-sized van 22 days before Spring Training, certainly indicates his legs are firmly underneath him, but more importantly, that his dedication is unwavering. I wouldn’t be surprised if Berríos dominates the Cleveland lineup backed by the Twins’ superb defense and a raucous Puerto Rican crowd. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he allows some early runs, overthrowing some fastballs and leaving them up in the zone because he’s so amped. Regardless, as an American, and Puerto Ricans are Americans, it’s hard to root against anyone so dedicated to and passionate about what they do for a living. While Berríos will be joined on the field by fellow Puerto Ricans Rosario and Francisco Lindor, Berríos will be the center of attention. It is a home game for the Twins and should feel like it. Lindor’s first at-bat against Berríos should be interesting, though, as both played for the runner-up Puerto Rican team in last year’s World Baseball Classic. Lindor performed better than Berríos in the WBC, so there will undoubtedly be some friendly competition between the two.
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Timberwolves vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
    • Whether the Wolves start the postseason on Saturday, April 14 or Sunday, April, 15, they could end up playing Game 2 of their first-round matchup on Tuesday, depending on how the off days are distributed.
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 4: Wild vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild start the postseason on Wednesday, Apr. 11, Game 4 of their first-round matchup could be played Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 18

  • Twins vs. Cleveland Indians, 6:10 p.m. on ESPN in San Juan, Puerto Rico
    • Sorry, ESPN. You missed out on Berríos and will likely get Kyle Gibson instead.
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 4: Wild @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild start the postseason on Thursday, April 12, Game 4 could be played Wednesday, April 18. The Wild could end up playing Game 4 on April 18 even if they start the postseason on Wednesday, April 11. They get a two-day break after Game 3 in the first round last season.

Given the 1.5-hour flight from the Twin Cities to Winnipeg, I doubt a two-day break would be extended to the teams if that is indeed the first-round matchup. A flight to Vegas is about 3.5 hours, so a two-day break would make more sense if that ends up being the matchup. The NHL isn’t in the habit of making sense, though. The Wild were playing the St. Louis Blues — another 1.5-hour flight — when they got the two-day break in last year’s playoffs.

Friday, April 20

Saturday, April 21

  • Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays, 5:10 p.m. on FSN
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 4: Timberwolves vs. TBD, at either 7 or 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 6: Wild @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wild play Game 5 on Thursday, April 19, they could play Game 6 the following Saturday.

Sunday, April 22

  • Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays, 12:10 p.m. on FSN
  • Minnesota United FC @ Seattle Sounders FC, 3 p.m. on FSN
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 6: Wild vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 5: Timberwolves @ TBD, 12 or 2:30 p.m. on ABC
    • Just two Game 4s are on the schedule for Sunday, April 22, so Saturday, Monday and even Tuesday could feature a Game 4.

Tuesday, April 24

  • Twins @ New York Yankees, 5:30 p.m. on FSN or MLBN
    • The Twins will bring a vastly improved starting rotation, even with Santana still recovering from surgery on his throwing hand. A deeper bullpen will also give reigning AL Manager of the Year Paul Molitor better options to match up against the Baby Bombers and new addition Giancarlo Stanton. Unfortunately, Berríos’s spot in the rotation doesn’t come up while the Twins are in New York — unless he pitches on four days of rest.
  • *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 7: Wild vs. TBD, TBD on TBD
    • Two weeks to complete a seven-game series is normal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it should bother no one. Unlike basketball players who know what to expect when they step on the court, these guys are playing on an ever-changing, slippery surface with crooked sticks and an unpredictable disk resulting in low-scoring games that are often decided by a bad bounce. Basketball games are seldom decided by officiating let alone a bad bounce.

Seven games are necessary in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because the margin of victory is so small. Even baseball has a better argument than basketball for making its first playoff round a seven-game series. Most teams play outdoors, where wind, heat, humidity, precipitation, sunlight and shadows can affect the outcome of a game. And if they don’t play outdoors, the different dimensions of every playing field can affect the outcome. I would happily cut the MLB regular season back down to 154 games if it meant making the Divisional Round of the playoffs a seven-game series. I’d be even happier to cut the first round of the NBA Playoffs down to five games, but more on that later.

Thursday, April 26

  • Twins @ New York Yankees, 12 p.m. on FSN or MLBN
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 6: Timberwolves @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • Half of the potential Game 6s in the NBA Playoffs are scheduled for Friday, April 27. With two Game 7s planned for Sunday, April 29, I suspect the other four potential Game 6s would be played Thursday rather than Saturday. Then again, every series going at least six games is improbable, so it’s more likely the Wolves would play Game 6 on Friday.

Friday, April 27

  • Twins vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 p.m. on FSN
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 6: Timberwolves @ TBD, between 6 and 9:30 p.m. on ESPN or ESPNEWS

Saturday, April 28

  • Twins vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1 p.m. on FSN
  • Minnesota United FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 7 p.m. on FSN
  • *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 7: Timberwolves @ TBD, TBD on TBD
    • If the Wolves do play Game 6 on Thursday, Saturday could be the day for Game 7.

Sunday, April 29

  • Twins vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1 p.m. on FSN
  • NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 7: Timberwolves @ TBD, between 12 and 2:30 p.m. on ABC
    • With two Game 7s already penciled in for Sunday, April 29, the Wolves’ first-round matchup could take two whole weeks to complete, and like the NHL, that’s not out of the ordinary. The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers went to seven games in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs last year. They started play on April 15 and completed the series on April 30, with nine of those 16 days being off days. Worse yet, the result of the series would have been the same had they played five games. But that’s another opinion piece for when the NBA Playoffs become uninteresting, which will be whenever the Wolves, if they in fact qualify for the postseason, are eliminated. Even with those five bodies playing all those minutes all season long, the Timberwolves might have a better chance to advance in the postseason than the Minnesota Wild. The Wolves are getting their leader back in Butler; the Wild just lost one of theirs in Ryan Suter (broken fibula) for the season. Regardless, it’s apparent that the best days of the Minnesota sports year are here. Let’s hope we stay busy watching four Minnesota sports teams into May.

This was originally published at GCNLive.com.

gogonzojournal

Anthony Varriano is a news editor at GCNLive.com, editor of GoGonzoJournal.com, and founder and editor of FoulPlaybyPlay.com. He has been blogging about the Minnesota Twins since 2009 and hosts a talk radio show investigating the week's cheats, cheap shots, and alleged criminals in sports.

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