Chicago Cubs fans react to a two run homer by Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs during interleague play at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minnesota Twins defeated the Chicago Cubs 11-3. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, what would you have headlined this recap?
The Cubs lost to the Twins 11-3 and the game was essentially over in the fourth inning, when the Twins pounded Jeff Samardzija (and reliever Casey Coleman) for six runs, making it 8-0. The Twins made it 11-0 before the Cubs eked out a consolation run (on a single, a wild pitch and two infield outs) in the seventh, and then Soriano's 12th homer of the year in the eighth, a two-run shot into the second deck in left field. That one wasn't quite as far as Friday night's second, but farther than Friday night's first.
And the Cubs still aren't hitting with RISP, because as noted, the first run scored on outs and the other two with a runner on first base -- 0-for-9 with RISP.
You know, this was a game that if I were Dale Sveum, I'd have told Casey Coleman: "You're taking one for the team today", and left him in to finish the game. How is this team going to work for 103 more games if three or four or five relievers are used every single day? Tony La Russa used to do that -- in fact, in recent years Jason Marquis was one of his "take one for the team" guys, one reason he had that six-plus ERA the year before the Cubs signed him. You didn't need to worry about batting for Coleman today.
I suppose it doesn't really matter. The loss dropped the Cubs to 21 games under .500. The most games under .500 any Cubs team has been since the end of the 2006 season (30 under) was 23 under, "achieved" in both 2010 and 2011, and much later in the year in both cases. This year, it could happen next week.
So, the rest of this recap will be a review of Target Field.
Target Field is nice. But then again, so is just about everyone I've run into in this trip to Minnesota. It's my first time here since the early 1980s (except for a couple of plane changes at MSP Airport), and that was my impression then, too. Friendly. Outgoing. Midwestern.
That's what Target Field is, too. It's friendly without being overbearing. At the same time, it doesn't really have any unique features that shout "Minnesota" to it. There are nice views of the Minneapolis skyline from seats on the third-base side, better from the upper deck (cleverly called "Skyline" seating), but the buildings -- at least to me -- don't have any real architectural significance or distinction to them (not like the skyline view you get at PNC Park in Pittsbrugh, anyway). If I took a photo of just the buildings and obscured any local identifying marks and told you it was Calgary, you'd probably believe me.
The park itself is surrounded in yellowish beige brick (I'm assuming limestone), which is quite attractive. To that end, it looks quite a bit like PNC, which is swathed in the same color on the outside. Getting there is easy. I can't vouch for driving, since I am riding the light rail system from my hotel to the stadium each day. It couldn't be more convenient -- it drops you off directly opposite an entrance in the left-field corner. Many Cubs fans on the train remarked that they were quite used to this method of getting to a ballpark.
I wound up with seats in the same section all three days, so I can't vouch for views from anywhere but section 124 down the LF line. Excellent view from there, no real blind spots of any kind. The wall in right field is quite high and you can easily see why it's been so difficult for guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to hit home runs in this park. One thing I don't really care for is this: there's a section of seats that overhangs the right-field wall. Why? Because they could, I guess -- there's no particular design reason for that other than baseball architects think "overhang" is cool. I think it looks dumb.
There's another interesting seating feature in left field -- an entire section of seats can be lifted up to allow things to come onto the field for pregame ceremonies. I say "things" because Friday, these seats were lifted up to let a horse team promoting a certain beer on the field. What that means is that people sitting in those seats have to wait until the pregame ceremonies are over to sit down. No one seemed to mind.
Food choices are excellent. There's a wide variety of local food and drink, particularly local craft beers. You can get a walleye sandwich -- I think that's unique among MLB parks. Prices are about average to a little on the high side. There's a sports bar called "Town Ball Tavern" on the 200 level in left field with sit-down bar food (burgers, etc). and cool baseball memorabilia.
Souvenir selection seemed limited. Unlike the other interleague series I attended last year in Chicago, Boston and Kansas City, the Twins made no special shirts or caps for this series. Too bad for them; I'd have bought one and I think others would too. There are a couple of standalone stores but nothing as large as I found in Kansas City last year.
The outfield seating -- three decks, as you no doubt noted from Soriano's blast Friday night -- is reminiscent of Metropolitan Stadium, where the Twins played from 1961-81. So is the main seating area, which also has a Kauffman Stadium-like feel. Check out these photos; I took them in 1983, when I came here to see a game at the Metrodome and stopped by the closed stadium for a look. A gate was open, so I wandered in:
Those just show you that nothing's forever. But Target Field is built well, and should serve the Twins well for many decades. It's nice; neither my favorite new park, nor my least favorite. Like the Midwest, it's just there, being solid and friendly.
Someday, though, they're probably going to wish they had a retractable roof on the place.