Fans who do show up at Target Field have a chance -- how big or small is up for debate -- to witness a feat that has been pulled off only once in the history of the great game of baseball.
Los Angeles righthander Jered Weaver will take aim at a record that seems more improbable to match with each passing year.
On June 15, 1938, lefthander Johnny Vander Meer threw his second no-hitter in as many starts as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 6-0. He had previously no-hit the Boston Bees in a 3-0 victory in Cincinnati on June 11. Vander Meer is the only major league pitcher with back-to-back no-hitters.
There have been 167 no-nos since Dandy Vandy's pair of gems. No one has duplicated his feat.
Weaver will be the next to try, because the Angels ace threw his first career no-hitter Wednesday night against the Twins in Anaheim. That's the extra spice to Monday's game. Weaver can one-up Vander Meer by no-hitting the same team in back-to-back starts.
The closest anyone has been to back-to-back no-nos since Vander Meer was Cincinnati's Ewell Blackwell in 1947. He no-hit the Boston Braves on June 18 then, in his next start, had a no-hitter with one out in the ninth before Brooklyn's Eddie Stanky broke it up. Vander Meer was still with the Reds at the time.
If the conditions ever were right for such a thing to happen again, it's right here, right now. The Twins are dropping like the Titanic, at 7-20 owners of baseball's worst record. They are coming off a road trip during which they made modern-era history for the fewest hits -- nine -- over a four-game span. They were no-hit, one-hit and three-hit on the six-game trip.
"All you need is the two-hitter," hitting coach Joe Vavra said. "That's not very comfortable."
Justin Morneau, one of the keys to the Twins offense, is on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his left wrist. They fielded a lineup Sunday with a total of eight home runs. The offense has sputtered so badly that Vavra called a hitters-only meeting before Sunday's game.
When Twins leadoff man Denard Span digs in against Weaver on Monday, he will be looking to keep the Twins out of the record books. To him, it's about payback for enduring a long night at Angel Stadium last week.
"Any time you lose a battle to somebody -- at least to myself -- I can't wait to get another opportunity to redeem myself and try to turn the tables," Span said.
The revenge theme is running through the Twins clubhouse as they prepare for Weaver.
"The way I look at it is that we have some redemption due," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "He stuck it up our tails, and now it's time for some payback."
Some Twins have noted that Weaver's career ERA on the road is 3.90 vs. 2.59 at home, which could help their cause. And there's the age-old debate that will be put to the ultimate test Monday: Is it, or is it not, an advantage for hitters when they face the same pitcher for the second time within a week? On one hand, they have seen his stuff and can make adjustments easier. On the other hand, Weaver could be even nastier than he was last week. Or he could tweak his approach and throw them off.
"I don't know," Span said while laughing. "I've never faced a pitcher two times in a week after he threw a no-hitter."
One thing the Twins have accomplished is that Monday's game is now an event. The baseball world will monitor the game to see if Weaver can join Vander Meer and join one of the smallest of clubs -- and to see what the Twins will do to avoid being on the wrong end of history.
"We're going to be home and hopefully we will be a little more prepared," Span said. "And hopefully our crowd can get to him a little bit."
Then, Span chuckled as he added: "It should be in our favor of getting at least a hit."
La Velle E. Neal III • firstname.lastname@example.org