10/02/2004 10:36 PM ET
Indians-Twins suspended after 11
Play halted as Metrodome hosts college football
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
|Cristian Guzman tags out Brandon Phillips as he attempts to steal second base. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins wanted home-field advantage for the playoffs. But on Saturday, they were kicked out of their home -- right in the middle of an important game.
Saturday's Twins-Indians game at the Metrodome was suspended with the scored tied at 5-5 after 11 innings because the playing surface had to be prepared for a University of Minnesota football game. The unfinished game will be continued Sunday at 1:10 a.m. CT with the regularly scheduled game to follow 20 minutes after the conclusion.
This was one postseason scenario no one envisioned. Planners thought about home-field contingencies for the American League postseason that depended on wins and losses by the Twins, Angels and A's.
What about a college football game?
"We're in the middle of a mess here now," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, visibly upset. "They're just going to stop the game! Stop, you can't play no more. We don't need a [new] stadium? Come on!"
The baseball game began at 11:10 a.m. CT with rules established that no inning could begin after 2:30 p.m. CT. At 2:33 p.m during the bottom of the 11th, Justin Morneau grounded out to the shortstop and everyone came off the field.
Since the Metrodome opened in 1982, the Twins, Gophers and the NFL's Vikings have shared the facility. Football games have been moved to accommodate Twins postseason play, but not regular-season games.
The Twins have played several Saturday morning games over the years to accommodate college football games. But this was the first time a baseball game was suspended for going past the curfew time.
"I knew we were in trouble when they came up to us and said, 'Not to worry, in 11 years it's never happened,'" Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
"This tells you how bad we need our new park," said reliever Juan Rincon, who pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings. "It's tough, wearing, especially when you have 161 games under your belt. We're playing for playoff home-field advantage, and it shouldn't be this way."
Left fielder Lew Ford thought someone might have been playing an elaborate prank.
"I didn't know anything about it," said Ford, who was 4-for-6 in the game. "I heard someone mention it was 2:29 during the inning, but I didn't know what they meant until after the inning was over."
The bizarre situation has thrown a big wrench in postseason planning. In order to host the Wild Card winning Red Sox in the American League Division Series, Minnesota needs to sweep the Cleveland series and hope that the Angels don't sweep the A's.
If the Angels complete a sweep of the A's, they also will finish tied with the Twins at 93 wins and capture the No. 2 seed in the tiebreaker because they won the season series over Minnesota. That would mean the Twins would begin the playoffs at New York against the AL East champion Yankees.
After the feeling of being dumbfounded subsided, several Twins were angry about the game's halting.
"It's just amazing that everyone was complaining we were giving guys rest and not trying hard for home-field advantage," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Yet, we go out here and get a game suspended because of a college football game. All you have to do is push [the Gophers] game back."
"They double-booked a game like this in the middle of a pennant race," third baseman Corey Koskie said. "What if it was a series like Oakland and Anaheim are having right now and we had to do something like this? That's not too good."
For several years, the Twins have unsuccessfully tried to finance and build a baseball-only ballpark.
"In the minor leagues, we had our own stadium," Hunter said. "We weren't pushed out of there. Why can't we do that in the big leagues?"
The Indians held three different leads in the game, but saw Minnesota scratch back to tie it up all three times. In the top of the seventh, Grady Sizemore scored on Casey Blake's infield hit to give Cleveland a 5-4 lead. Minnesota evened it after Lew Ford scored when Hunter grounded into a double play.
Rincon and Joe Nathan combined for four scoreless innings while Rafael Betancourt, Mike Miller and Cliff Bartosh held the Twins scoreless.
As the Twins batted in the bottom of the 11th, Twins players noticed field and security personnel gathering in the tunnel by the on-deck circle. The conversion for football immediately began after the third out.
"It's pretty unfortunate that the game had to end like this," Gardenhire said. "I hope the Gophers win. I really hope it was worth it tonight. Come on, Gophers."
When the top of the 12th inning finally begins Sunday, the Twins won't be sending Nathan back out to pitch. With bullpen options limited because five pitchers were already used, Aaron Fultz is expected to get the ball. If it goes beyond Fultz, rookie Jesse Crain is available.
Grady Sizemore, who is just a double away from the cycle in the game, is due to bat in the top of the 12th against Fultz.
The Twins don't exactly know who will pitch the regularly scheduled game Sunday. If they had won Saturday, they planned on sending Kyle Lohse to the mound to go for home-field advantage. If they lost, rookies J.D. Durbin or Matt Guerrier were expected.
Now Lohse will have to wait until the first game is concluded before knowing if he'll start.
"It's a pretty crazy situation," Lohse said.
"It's nobody's fault but ours for not knocking in a run earlier I guess," said Gardenhire sarcastically. "We'll come back out [Sunday] and try this thing again."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.