Twins-A’s Liveblog in Semi-Real Time
Minnesota is in the throes of a late-summer renaissance. The weather is 80 degrees and clear, the baseball team’s torrid play clinched a division title on the last day of the season, and even such luminaries as Jonah Keri are taking notices.
I’m here, too, haunting the sports bars, hippie co-ops and collective bookstores. And I have tickets for the whole series on the 100 level, down the third base line.
The litany of events that brought me, alone, to attend the American League division series between the Twins and Oakland is too tumultuous and bizarre to fully recount here. Nevertheless, I am pleased to report that this may be the only baseball experience I have that Jonah has not had: the pleasure of attending a game in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Go baggie!
Given my recent absence from the site â€“ you would not believe the amount of work that goes into moving out of the country, let alone other, less-enticing legal hassles â€“ and given that my faithful bag o’ technology contains all the requisite elements of a liveblog experience, it seems clear what the correct course of action is here.
Because, after all, what do readers of a Seattle Mariner blog crave more than real-time dispatches from down the 3rd base line of a division rival’s playoff game?
It’s 1,395 miles to Seattle. I have a camera, a laptop, an ass pocket full of whiskey and internet access through my cell phone. I’m going to be inside a dome, wearing a hat.
Despite having a bevy of Minnesotan pals, acquaintances and affectionate rivals, I’ve never really spent much time here. The place is great: lots of wilderness not too far from the cities, an excellent music scene and vibe that’s not too far removed from certain corners of the great Northwest.
In my friend’s neighborhood, there’s a yoga studio, place to get a hairweave and dreadlocks, and an amply stocked liquor store, plus the aforementioned watering holes, co-op groceries and lefty bookshops.
Plenty of oak and maple trees give the urban landscape a kind of Southeast Portland feel, so it’s safe to say this is my kind of place. Also, I finally get to see what Atmosphere is talking about as regards the 612.
Of course, I did offer to visit next February and got laughed out of the room. â€œYou’re going to come from a tropical island … to Minnesota … in FEBRUARY?â€ Touche.
For your pre-game wagering enjoyment …
Beer prices (domestic): $5.50
Wait to get into the game: 10 minutes
I am able to successfully sell my extra ticket (at face value!): 8:5
The bus downtown is late: 2:1
I get searched: 8:5
I get heckled for blogging during the game: 1:1
I make up an outrageous lie about my computer use (â€œI’m a scout for the Yankees. My name is David Cameron.â€): No line
USS Mariner comes up in conversation without me bringing it up: 4:1
â€œThe dome will be packed,â€ my friend says. â€œThis town goes nuts for the Twins!â€
This may be true. But so far, I’ve seen one â€œCongrats, Twinsâ€ banner, a few â€œGo Twinsâ€ scrolling banners on buses, and a host of empty streets. Granted, it’s early, but it’s not that early, and you can still park within 4 blocks of the yard for four bucks.
I’m sure the yard will be full, but it’s not looking good for recovering face value.
Scalping adventures: I get one bite from a Craigslist hail, and that guy says â€œYeah, I already have another offer for a ticket that’s better.â€ (My seats are 100 level, down the 3rd base line.)
Scalping adventures, part 2: I see not one â€“ not one â€“ other person selling tickets. I overhear one other guy saying â€œI’d be happy if I could just get face value for it.â€
Because we’re still 90 minutes from gametime, I follow him to see if he knows a secret scalping zone. But no, he just goes inside.
I take the opportunity to circumnavigate the Metrodome. It’s a utilitarian monstrosity, all concrete, very spartan. Not much to see, and the atmosphere is subdued. It’s a day game, sure, but an average game at Safeco Field is rowdier this far before game time.
I pick up my tickets at Will Call. There is one person in line in front of me.
I walk around the metrodome again, checking out every gate. There is no waiting at any gate. I repeat: there is not a line at any gate. On the one hand, woo-hoo! On the other hand, I’m a little surprised, and it’s not looking good for getting rid of that extra stub.
At about 10:38, I hear the PA announcer declare that there are still a limited about of tickets available. Given this fact â€“ and the fact that I can now place my bag o’ tech in the seat next to me, minimizing the risk of ridicule â€“ I decide to just head inside.
The streets are alive … with the sound of not much
Imagine seeing this sign near Safeco Field on game day? Hot damn.
Got the tickets!
The view from my seat, circa 10:30
Random notes from the stands:
It’s safe to say Joe Mauer is pretty popular here. Fully two-thirds of the replica jerseys have his name on the back: we’re talking men, women, the young, the old, one lady in a Muslim head covering, one guy in a yarmulke. No, really.
Santana’s next, Morneau is a distant third, and no one else is close.
Strangest T-Shirt slogan: â€œSmell ‘Em.â€ It features the silhouette of a Twins player, with the slogan in big block type below.
I have no idea what this means. â€œMy team stinksâ€? â€œMy team’s testosterone content = dramatic increases in body odor, but victoriesâ€?
Second-strangest shirt: “Welcome to Hibbing, where you don’t get divorced, you just lose your turn.” Huh? Local humor I don’t get, I guess.
We’ve all seen the jug of milk out in right field on television. But it’s kind of like knowing your family is going to appear on daytime TV, and then actually seeing it. Nothing prepares you for the actual in-person experience.
Twins commentator Bert Blyleven, on TV broadcasts, circles people in the stands with his telestrator style pen. There’s a kid right behind me with an elaborate â€œCircle Me, Bert!â€ sign. I have a Sharpie and am strongly considering writing â€œCurse on the Air Again, Bert!â€ if the kid goes to the bathroom.
Betting line results:
It’s always safe to take the â€œoverâ€ on ballpark food prices. Peanuts are four bucks and beers are six. The bus downtown was on time and the wait to get into the game was way, way, under, although I did get searched, of course.
No heckling (yet), no USSM references (yet) unless you count instant messages (I don’t).
Huge standing ovation for Santana as he jogs out on to the field.
I gotta give these fans credit: it’s only about 80 percent full, but they got so loud during the introductions, you literally could not hear the PA announcer.
There are three guys sitting behind me who have, by their own admission, have been drinking in the parking lot for hours beforehand. Verbatim quote:
â€œThere’s just a little green in the stands (A’s colors) … but there’s some douchebag in full Yankees gear down there.â€
Pre-game, there’s a home-run hitting contest featuring mascots. If Derek were here, he’d be booing. The contest includes TC, â€œthe home-run-hittinest bear in the North Woods.â€
Guy behind me: â€œIf you can hit a ball with that suit on … that’s huuuuuuuge!â€
First pitch: 6 minutes.
Sign of the day.
The Twins have to work on their musical selection. The guy who did two songs before the game, including the anthem, was someone named Rockie Lynne â€“ a male country singer with a female stripper’s name.
The song that kicked off the game was Van Hagar’s â€œRight Now,â€ a pretty lame song when it was fresh. C’mon, throw me a bone here, Minnesota â€“ rock some Husker Du or Replacements. â€œNew Day Risingâ€ anyone?
Oh yeah, the game: Santana seemed to be flat dealing in the first inning, and the roof comes off with virtually every strike he throws. He’s a lot sharper than Zito. And I know that the scrappy Twins play smallball and all that, but getting Castillo thrown out stealing while Barry was struggling to find the zone was a positively Hargrovian move.
It’s also nice to see the Homer Hankies out. I love those damn things, and I’m waiting for a Twinkie dinger to take a good shot of them …
… but speaking of dingers, Thomas’ home run nearly hit the top of the dome. It was just a muscle shot that was higher than it was deep. The faithful were hoping it’d go foul, but instead, it landed about 25 yards in front of me.
If you would have told me that one of these lefties would have faced the minimum through three, and the other would have given up a couple of runs while struggling from a high pitch count, I would’ve been pretty confident in my prediction about who was who. Santana still looks sharp, but Zito’s found his form, and the curve is positively nasty today.
On another note, I hate between-inning â€œentertainmentâ€ under the best of circumstances, but here, where the scoreboard is tiny and the choice of video as cheesy as neighboring Wisconsin, it’s particularly perturbing. Example: not only do we have the irritating â€œfan cam,â€ we have a variant on it where the fan’s head is distorted so the crown of the head sweels and the rest shrinks â€“ sort of like the martians in Mars Attacks.
It’s almost enough to make one long for the Hydro Race. Almost.
We’re through three, and here comes Thomas again … and holy crap, that ball was hit to nearly the same spot. Gulp.
… Santana retires him, and the Twins faithful (who were shellshocked two innings ago) are loud again. They still believe.
I just discovered that I can connect to the Star-Tribune’s wireless router. They’re across the street from the dome. Thanks, Star-Trib!
Also, the Twins just played “Hey Ya” over the PA. Improvement.
Zito’s command’s been off â€“ he’s at a 1:1 ball-strike ratio â€“ but he’s made pitches when he’s needed to. Morneau’s drive to center was the first hard-hit ball for the Twins all day.
We just had the first successful example of the reverse jinx I’ve seen in some time. The crowd was officially starting to get restless, and one of the guys behind me dropped the â€œno-hitterâ€ reference … and it worked. A sigh of relief throughout the stadium.
The “hey, were not getting no-hit” relaxation effect didn’t last very long. You can tell people are getting nervous.
Man, this game is going fast.
Tons of security precautions here, too. There are 11 security guards on the field between innings — and those are just the ones you can see.
It’s probably because I told ’em DMZ was coming.
Top of the seventh inning notes: wow, Jason Bartlett would’ve been wearing the goat horns if they hadn’t gotten out of that inning unscathed. Also: if Torii Hunter had thrown the ball to third on that line drive to center, he would have had a solid chance to get Frank Thomas — whether he was going to home or not. The guy just can’t move any more.
The seventh inning stretch featured Bert Blyleven singing a valium-inspired “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” where the crowd was a good two seconds ahead of Blyleven on the verses. They also don’t change the words here to “Root, root for the Twinkies,” or anything.
Finally, the fans got what they were looking for with the Rondell White homer. They flat-out asploded, chanted his name, and gave him a standing ovation when he returned to the field. Seriously, these people are into it.
Inspiring song post-homer: “Livin’ on a Prayer.” (?!?)
Pre-8th inning inspirational song: “I Melt With You.” Not to dwell, but …
RE: “I Melt With You”: I guess you can’t argue with results. (Bartlett’s double)
Okay, I retreat to my original position on “I Melt With You,” although the Nouvelle Vague cover is pretty awesome.
Man, that last inning may have been the Twins’ best shot: leadoff man on second, top of the order coming up (although the top of the order does include Luis Castillo and Nick Punto, so …), and nothing.
It looks like Huston Street will come in to pitch the ninth since Cuddyer leads off, though, and that might provide some extra hope. Justin Morneau has one more at bat, and Zito’s been solid shutting down Minnesota’s lefty sluggers.
I’m hoping walk to Cuddyer, bomb by Morneau, and that would … tie the game, now that Frank Thomas has just homered again.
This crowd is all over Jesse Crain like DMZ on an Anchor Steam.
The murmurs have started in earnest. The smell of fear is on them. The exit doors will start swinging if Cuddyer doesn’t get on base, I surmise.
For the first time tonight, you could hear me across the stadium if I shouted.
Aaaaaaaand that’s a wrap. Fickle Finger of Fate Department: Cuddyer hits a routine fly ball that drops for a triple when Milton Bradley loses it in the ceiling. Then, Morneau — who hit three balls hard today — absolutely tattoos a line drive, but right at Bradley. 15 feet either way, that’s an RBI double.
Still, a great, well-played game with two good pitching performances. Tomorrow is Esteban Loaiza versus Boof Bonser, so that might be … different.
I had fun, and I hope you did, too. The lines getting out look to be much longer than the lines to get in. But I have just enough battery life to finish this off and head back to spacious USS Mariner Labs and prepare for tomorrow.