Without a dome here in Houston, we'd be in the fourth inning right now, after waiting out a long delay for a loud thunderstorm that sent thunder rumbling through the dome for a couple of innings. Instead, you get to read four late-night notes from the Twins' 4-2 victory:
EIGHT YEARS LATER: Longtime Twins fans remember the game of June 22, 2006, the day Francisco Liriano outdueled Roger Clemens and the defending National League champions 4-2 in Minute Maid Park and lifted the Twins above .500 for good that season. But here's an oddity about that game: Joe Mauer, who was batting .375 at the time en route to his first batting title, has not played under Houston's dome since. Until Monday, anyway, when he certainly didn't look like a guy who had not seen major-league pitching in almost six weeks. With thunder and lightning creating a distraction, Mauer drew a walk in his first plate appearance, then doubled off the top of the wall in left field his next time up, missing a home run by a couple of feet. "Here, I thought it had a chance. In some other parks, that's an out," he said. He flew to center field, then smashed a line drive that first baseman Jon Singleton speared and turned into a double play. And in the ninth, he took a fastball the opposite way for a game-winning hit. "He made a really nice catch at first base, too," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Welcome back, Joe."
A VOID IN THE CLUBHOUSE: Brian Dozier said Josh Willingham "is my best friend, basically," and his attitude sort of summed up the feeling in the Twins' clubhouse after the game. The Twins were happy with the win, but Willingham was one of the most popular teammates in Minnesota's clubhouse, and more than one player made it clear how much he will be missed. But all acknowledged, too, that the transaction makes sense; Willingham's contract runs out in October, he's 35, and the Twins got a decent back-end-starter pitching prospect for him in righthander Jason Adam. Still, Gardenhire said, "it was not fun. I'm happy for him. I'm excited for him to go get into a pennant race -- he hasn't had been able to enjoy that. But it was a tough moment in the clubhouse."
GREEN LIGHT: Gardenhire wasn't overlooking Jordan Schafer's stolen base in the ninth inning, too, his fifth without being caught this year -- and against a catcher, in Jason Castro, who had already thrown out Danny Santana in the game. Schafer walked in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game, and everybody knew he would take off for second. Didn't matter. Schafer is now 20-for-22 on the season. "He's unbelievable. He can fly. When he gets on base, it's not if he's going to run, it's when," Gardenhire said. "He has a green light unless I give him a red light, and I haven't given him one yet."
STAY OUT OF TROUBLE: Figured all along that today's story would be Tommy Milone. Those plans were changed by Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer, but Milone was still impressive in his Twins debut. He gave up eight hits and three walks -- "I don't usually walk three guys," Milone said, "but I was a little amped up out there tonight." -- but worked out of trouble each time. His mistakes were home runs, by Jose Altuve and Chris Carter, but both were solo blasts. He was helped by a great double play started by Brian Dozier's amazingly quick flip to shortstop Eduardo Escobar in the second inning, ending a bases-loaded situation with no runs. "I felt like that was a shift right there. It could easily turn into a bad inning, and to come out with nothing, it was a momentum shift," Milone said. Using his 88-mph fastball and a variety of breaking balls, Milone also struck out five batters, two of them looking. Gardenhire said he was impressed. "I don't think he located as well as he normally does, but he changed speeds really well," Gardenhire said. "I like him."