"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I'm trying to find the words to describe last night's game.

It didn't start off like a pitcher's duel. The first batter squibbed a single against Santana and then stole second. Oh, dear.

But this was Santana, not Pre-All-Star-Break-Radke or Mays-Come-Lately. Johan said, "I spit upon your runners in scoring position", and he sat the next three batters down. And then the duel began in earnest.

Freddy Garcia gave up a walk in the bottom of the first, but nothing came of it. There was a double in the third by the same Whine Sock who got that single, and it elicited pretty much the same reaction from Santana. In the fourth, it was Santana who gave up the walk, and then came a long, long fly ball to left, and the only way to haul it in was for Shannon Stewart to make like a paintball against the outfield wall. Splat he did, and out of the game he went with a strained or dislocated shoulder, but the out was recorded and the duel continued.

And then...

...nothing happened.

One-two-three they went down in the bottom of the fourth, the top of the fifth, the bottom of the fifth, the top of the sixth. People were starting to whisper "no-hitter" in the seats. The Twins had two walks, it's true, but their line read 0-0-0. Two pitchers were pitching shutouts and one--the wrong one--had yet to surrender so much as a single.

Cuddyer led off the bottom of the sixth with a roller down the line that shot under the third baseman's glove. He cruised into second base, the crowd went wild, and the jumbotron flashed the official ruling on the play.

E5. An error. A #&%$ing error on the #&%$ing third baseman and are you blind, Mr. Official Scorer? Well, on second thought, it wasn't exactly a screamer, was it? I mean, his glove was right there, just not down far enough.


But oh, look, we've got a runner on second, and Abernathy's hit a grounder to the right side and he's out easy as you please but Cuddyer's at third with one out! But then Michael Ryan, who hasn't had a hit since the Clinton administration and is currently filling in for Our Hero Stewart, hits one right at the third baseman and Cuddy has to hold up and there are two outs. But Punto is up, and Punto has been hitting like nobody's business and he'll bring Cuddy home, won't he?

Actually, no, he won't. He'll launch a heart-stopper deep into right field and Jermaine Dye will run backward and leap and crash into the wall (a lot like Stewart but without the injury) and catch the damn ball, dammit all to hell.

And on we go to the seventh, which looks a whole lot like the middle innings with six guys up and down in about five minutes flat. Still the Twins line reads 0-0-0, and I'm starting to squirm a little in my hard blue plastic seat. Okay, I'm starting to squirm a lot, and I start praying to the Baseball Gods (for They are ineffable, but certainly wise and good). I tell Them, Yes, I do want to see a no-hitter in my lifetime, and I really want to see one live and in person, but not this no-hitter. Just let us get a hit! One measly hit! Please?

Santana teased them with a two-out single in the top of the eighth, then snatched the third out from the jaws of his first pitch to Ozuna. Out comes Freddy Garcia for the 8th, still pitching a no-hit shutout. I'm starting to think maybe the Baseball Gods (for They are flaky, but fair) are with Garcia tonight.

But wait, what's this?

One hit. One long and lovely hit over the centerfield baggie. The Twins would go down 1-2-3 afterward, and it didn't matter.

The Dome erupted in a cacophony the likes of which it hadn't seen since the first home playoff game in 2002, after all those long years of draught. The teflon trembled, the seats shook, and the crowd crowed. It was wild and glorious and it was magic.

We surged to our feet as Crazy Joe Nathan took the mound in the ninth. Every pitch was greeted with a swell of sound, yelps of joy or groans of anguish, depending on the umpire's ruling. When the second batter walked, I thought the boos would blow the umpire right out of the building. When Nathan struck out the dangerous Paul Konerko for the second out, I feared for the structural integrity of the Dome. And when Aaron Rowand worked the count to 2-2 (I was jumping up and down like a demented bunny from barely-restrained tension) and then struck out with a mighty swing, I swear they must have heard it in Wisconsin. Or at least St. Paul.

Twins win on one hit, one run, and one unforgettable night.

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