TORONTO — It’s not just a Minnesota thing. Nearly four hours before today’s game, and two hours before gates opened at Rogers Centre, hundreds of Jays fans were already standing in line, waiting to claim a Russell Martin bobblehead.
The ballpark once known as SkyDome is expected to be sold out for this holiday afternoon game, with interest heightened by the wild-card race — Toronto trails the Twins for a playoff spot by one game — and David Price’s Blue Jay debut. If recent history is any guide, they should be happy with what they see; Price is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Twins this season. Then again, he’ll be facing Ervin Santana, who is 2-0 with an 0.76 ERA in three road starts for the Twins.
Speaking of the holiday, it’s a little unclear — even to residents here — what it is, exactly. I asked three people at my hotel what it is, and got three different answers: Civic Day, Family Day and August Celebration. A couple of people on Twitter informed me that here in the city, it’s technically Simcoe Day, named for the founder of the village that became Toronto, and Wikipedia agrees. But I’ve yet to find a single person here tell me that. The concierge explained that a few years ago, there was a movement to create a three-day weekend in August, the only month that didn’t have one, and it was left up to the cities and provinces to decide what the occasion should be.
Regardless of the reason, the Twins are starting their road trip with a day game, the first time I can recall that happening after April.
With back-to-back day games, Paul Molitor is giving Joe Mauer the day off. “I’ve done a little bit of thinking about the number of games left to play, and what’s a realistic number for our guys who have been out there the most. In Joe’s case today, [the combination of] back-to-back day games, including travel, and on turf — it would be tough for him to play four games on turf,” the Twins manager said. “I’m not sure how bodies are responding to playing on this new surface, but with Price, that matchup hasn’t been particularly good for Joe, so this seemed like a chance to shake that up a little bit.”
Mauer is 6-for-34 (.176) against Price, so it makes sense. Molitor sounded wary of the Rogers Centre turf, which is new this season. It’s the kind of turf that is covered in little black rubber balls, which are visible when the ball bounces off it. Brian Dozier said he doesn’t mind the fake turf, except when he dives for a grounder: Those tiny pieces of rubber get under your uniform, he said, and drive him crazy.
One other notable lineup change: Eduardo Nunez, whose 10 hits are the most by any Twin against Price, will bat second, dropping Aaron Hicks down to seventh.
The Blue Jays lineup doesn’t include former Twin Chris Colabello, who visited with his former teammates and coaches during batting practice, but another ex-Twin, Ben Revere, will play left field.
Rookie righthander Tyler Duffey is here, after a bit of a scramble. Shocked at being called up to start on Wednesday when he wasn’t even on the 40-man roster, Duffey realized his passport was back home in Texas. “Only I would get called up while we’re in Toronto,” he said. So his father caught a flight from Houston to Rochester, and together they made the four-hour drive to Toronto.
Here are the lineups for today’s noon CDT start from Canada: