CLEVELAND — Maybe it was gamesmanship, maybe it was some lousy map-reading, maybe it was an … what’s baseball’s favorite phrase these days? … oh yes, an abundance of caution. For whatever the reason, the home team took some practice swings on the Progressive Field diamond before tonight’s kinda-sorta important game, and the visiting team did not.
Just as the Twins emerged from their dugout three hours before first pitch to loosen up and hit some homers, so did the grounds crew, with instructions to cover the infield with a tarp. The Twins milled around for a half-hour, played catch, ran in the outfield, and trickled back into their clubhouse. Miguel Sano fielded some grounders on the warning track, Jose Berrios hopped around on one leg to strengthen his calves, and it was over.
Twins coaches, though, gathered in front of the dugout and clearly commiserated about the move, with more than one gesturing toward the sunny skies. A look at the weather radar showed a few small squalls approaching, and I don’t doubt, with Lake Erie just down the street, that those sometimes blossom into sudden downpours; I’ve witnessed it. But those Twins in charge of preparing for the game looked annoyed.
No, it doesn’t mean anything, and the Twins, whose plus-40 run differential is the biggest in the American League, will be fine without batting practice for a day.
Especially, one would guess, with Kenta Maeda on the mound. Minnesota’s unbeaten newcomer has already held Cleveland to one hit over six innings on Aug. 1 at Target Field, and he took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Brewers last Tuesday. If he can improve on those outings, it’s going to be a historic night in Cleveland.
It could be considered a big series: Five weeks to go, 1 1/2 games separating the top two AL Central teams. But with eight teams making the playoffs, it’s more like they are playing for seeding, since it appears unlikely that either one will fail to qualify.
Tyler Clippard seems to have avoided any lingering injury, manager Rocco Baldelli said, and the Twins currently have no plans to put him on the injured list after he was hit by a line drive Sunday.
Here are the lineups for the first of three games in Cleveland: