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 @ Winnipeg Jets, 6 p.m. on CNBC
Friday, April 13:
- Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 7:10 p.m. on FSN
- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2: Wild @ Winnipeg Jets, 6:30 p.m. on USA
Saturday, April 14
- Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m.
- Minnesota United FC @ Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. on FSN
Sunday, April 15
- Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m.
- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3: Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets, 6 p.m. on USA
- NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1: Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. on TNT
- This gives the Timberwolves three days off after their last regular season game. That could be a gift for the Tom Thibodeau-coached Timberwolves, whose starters all average more than 32 minutes per game played. All five of the Wolves’ starters are in the NBA’s top 40 players in minutes played per game on average, and Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are second, ninth and 13th on that list, respectively. The Wolves were certainly conditioned for the playoffs, but are they healthy, and will the long NBA postseason be an advantage or disadvantage given the minutes they’ve played? Thibodeau’s history tells us the Wolves will be at a disadvantage, but at least they’re getting Jimmy Butler (torn meniscus) back.
Tuesday, April 17
- Twins vs. Cleveland Indians, 6:10 p.m. on FS1 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 4: Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets, 7 p.m. on CNBC
Wednesday, April 18
- Twins vs. Cleveland Indians, 6:10 p.m. on ESPN in San Juan, Puerto Rico
- 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 @ Houston Rockets, 8:30 p.m. on TNT
Friday, April 20
- Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays, 6:10 p.m. on FSN
- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 5: Wild @ Winnipeg Jets, 6:30 p.m. on USA
Saturday, April 21
- Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays, 5:10 p.m. on FSN
- NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3: Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets, 6:30 p.m. on ESPN
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. Winnipeg Jets, TBD on TBD
Monday, April 23
- Twins @ New York Yankees, 6:05 p.m. on ESPN
- NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 4: Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets, 7 p.m. on TNT
Wednesday, April 25
- Twins @ New York Yankees, 5:35 p.m. on FSN
- *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 5: Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets, TBD on TBD
- *Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1, Game 7: Wild @ Winnipeg Jets, TBD on TBD
- 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.
Friday, April 27
- Twins vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 p.m. on FSN
- *NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 6: Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets, 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
Sunday, April 29
- Twins vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1 p.m. on FSN
- NBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 7: Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets, 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.
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