Who knows what adventures await the Twins this week when they enter Chavez Ravine to play the Dodgers for the first time there since 2005. But, based on their last visit, there sure could be some.
It was in June of that season when the Twins arrived for a three-game series. Twins players and coaches chatted up legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. Actress Alyssa Milano was spotted in the stands. And players were in awe of playing at such a historic ballpark.
Then the games began.
Torii Hunter made one of his many spectacular catches to take away a potential extra-base hit. When the inning ended, a large man rose from his seat, walked to the edge of the visitors’ dugout and demanded to speak with Hunter.
It was actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who wanted to congratulate him for the catch. That encounter led to a friendship.
“We talked a lot,” Hunter said of Duncan, who died in 2012. “He was a White Sox fan. I killed the White Sox, so he called all the time to talk trash.”
That series also was known for Brad Radke’s inability to get Hee-Seop Choi out in the third game. The Korean slugger hit home runs in his first three at-bats against Radke. With Choi on deck in the seventh inning about to get a chance to hit his fourth home run, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire went to the mound to replace Radke.
“What in the heck are you doing out here?” Radke asked.
Choi, a month later, was named a Home Run Derby participant. Radke’s teammates couldn’t resist pranking him. Third baseman Corey Koskie called Radke, pretending to be Choi, asking him to be his pitcher at the Derby. Another teammate wrote a letter pretending to be Choi, requesting Radke’s appearance at the Derby. It included the Dodgers logo and a signature in Korean.
“I think I still have that letter,” Radke said Saturday while laughing.
Now the Twins are headed back to Chavez Ravine, where they will be challenged by a Dodgers team that is toying with the league. Los Angeles entered the weekend having won 31 of its previous 36 games, including winning streaks of 10 and 11 games.
The 11-game run ended Thursday with a loss to the Braves. Afterward, manager Dave Roberts told the media: “It’s a weird feeling.”
Entering the weekend, the Dodgers were third in baseball in batting average and third in on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The pitching staff sported the lowest ERA and the most shutouts.
And regardless of which Hollywood stars attend this time, the Twins will have their hands full trying to make Roberts feel weird some more.
Indians: Cleveland is one of the few teams looking for offensive help before the trade deadline. With Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis on the DL for a few more weeks, the Indians need a bat. One player they reportedly are interested in is former Twin Eduardo Nunez, who is with the Giants.
Royals: Third baseman Mike Moustakas had 26 home runs through Friday, putting him on pace for 43. That easily would break the club record of 36 by Steve Balboni in 1985. Kansas City is the only team whose home run record is lower than 40.
Tigers: Notice that outfielder JaCoby Jones is not with the Tigers this weekend at Target Field. Jones was hit in the face by a Justin Haley pitch on April 22, forcing him to miss a month. He returned on May 27 and played six games before being sent to Class AAA Toledo. He’s hit .221 in 36 games since the demotion.
White Sox: Get ready for a run of top White Sox prospects making their debuts. Second baseman Yoan Moncada was the first on Wednesday, and his arrival led to 5,000 walk-up ticket sales in Chicago. General Manager Rick Hahn has traded veterans for an impressive haul of young talent that should have the team contending in a couple of years.
Three observations …
• Oakland is sitting pretty right now. The Athletics have the best starter available in righthander Sonny Gray, with a group of motivated buyers led by the Astros and Yankees who have multiple prospects to trade.
• Yankees righthander Luis Severino hit 101.2 miles per hour with his fastball on Thursday while facing the Mariners. That is major heat for a starting pitcher.
• Eduardo Nunez would be a good fit for the Red Sox. Boston is trying to hang on to the few top prospects it has, but it should not take a lot to land Nunez, who’s been playing well for the Giants.
… and two predictions
• Houston will not miss injured Carlos Correa, out until September because of a torn thumb ligament. Marwin Gonzalez, who is having a career year at the plate, will replace him at short. And the Astros’ lineup is deep enough to absorb Correa’s absence.
• The Rangers will deal righthander Yu Darvish before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.