The Twins were hanging on to a one-run lead in the summer of 1987. There was a drive toward right-center field that was going to score the tying run from first base.

"Make it bounce, Dome gods," said Dick Such, the pitching coach during the Tom Kelly era.

The ball bounced over the distant fence for a ground-rule double. The runners stayed at second and third as a final out was recorded, and the Dome gods had delivered another victory for the '87 Twins.

On Saturday afternoon, Mark Allison, the son of the late Bob Allison, Met Stadium's No. 4, turned the placard in left field to leave a large red 4 as the number of home games scheduled to be played before the Twins depart the Metrodome.

The placard-turning occurred before the bottom of the sixth, and the Twins followed by failing to dent Detroit ace Justin Verlander in that half-inning, and again in the seventh.

It remained 2-1 for the Tigers into the bottom of the eighth, and the 6-5, rocket-throwing Verlander returned to the mound with a total of 108 pitches.

Denard Span slapped a one-out single to left. Verlander engaged in a battle with Orlando Cabrera. On the ninth pitch, Cabrera lifted a routine fly ball toward the left-field line.

Anyone wondering if the Dome gods had decided to abandon the Twins, since the Twins are abandoning them, could see quickly that a mystical force was interfering with left fielder Don Kelly's vision as he tried to track the ball against the Teflon sky.

"I saw the ball off the bat, and then it got above the lights, and I couldn't see it at all," said Kelly, a 29-year-old with little big-league experience.

Kelly finally caught a glimpse and made a dive, but Cabrera's fly ball landed for a double, sending Span to third with the tying run and one out.

Verlander was now at 121 pitches. Joe Mauer, the only hitter to get to Verlander with Jarrin' Joe's bomb of a first-inning home run, was next. Lefthander Bobby Seay was ready in the bullpen.

"I felt like it was [Verlander's] inning," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I wasn't going to take him out unless something happened."

Mauer was intentionally walked and then it happened: a Jason Kubel pop fly that dropped in front of Kelly for a two-run single and a 3-2 lead.

Leyland arrived at the mound and Verlander left quickly -- although not as quickly as he left the clubhouse after getting into civilian clothes. As reporters surrounded Kelly for postgame comments, Verlander stalked toward the clubhouse exit.

The steam wasn't exactly visible coming off his neck, but you knew it was there.

Michael Cuddyer had capped the Twins' comeback eighth with a three-run home run for a 6-2 final. Right now, the muscular right fielder-turned-first baseman has the best power swing going of his big-league career, but that only happened after the Dome gods had again given their blessing to the Twins.

Detroit pitching coach Rick Knapp, long a member of the Twins' minor league organization, said: "Justin was great today. He was firing. Strange stuff happens.''

It has happened for 28 years in the plastic ballpark -- and in their years as champions or as contenders, it has happened most often in the Twins' favor.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has made known his excitement to see his division rivals leaving the Dome. It is anyone's guess as to what bilingual expletives Guillen would have offered if his team had lost a game as crucial as Saturday's in such an absurd manner.

Leyland? He refused to bite when the chance was offered to blame the loss on the Dome.

"It had nothing to do with that," he said. "We had plenty of opportunities. We had a lot of hits off [Carl Pavano] but didn't hit the ball hard when we had those chances."

The Twins send out their ace today -- Scott Baker -- and a victory would cut the Tigers' lead to one game with two weeks left. That final stretch starts with an 11-day, 10-game journey to Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit. Sadly, the Dome gods won't be packing their bags.

Those kindly spirits always have shown an aversion to travel.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. •