Weather, wayward rodent provide footnotes to odd non-finish
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Five nil-nil innings before Tuesday's suspension at Target Field left only one tally on the scoreboard:
Squirrel 1, Alex Rodriguez 0.
Umpires stopped the scoreless series opener between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees after a 1-hour, 23-minute delay, roughly 25 minutes before the rain that caused it stopped altogether. The action will resume at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday in front of ticketholders for the regularly scheduled night game.
And so Tuesday's announced crowd of 38,962 was left with no finish, no victor -- only a series of memories unique to this state's first open-air pro baseball season in almost three decades.
Steady rain driving fans to the stadium's covered sections beginning in the second inning. Lightning striking beyond the right-center field wall. And one wayward rodent giving Twins third baseman Brendan Harris a scare that just might have thrown the Yankees' star slugger out of rhythm in an important spot.
Rodriguez was standing in with a 1-2 count and two runners on when the crowd rose in crescendo, and not for Scott Baker bearing down on the second out.
A squirrel was hopping down the left-field line. Then, he/she/it made a beeline for Harris, who leapt out of the way when the rodent made a move for his ankles.
"I didn't know what the crowd was cheering at," Harris said. "They were going nuts over it."
Play stopped briefly, heads on and off the field turned toward the furry visitor making his way back to left field, and by the time Rodriguez returned to the batter's box, chants of "Let's go squirrel!" were rising from the left-field corner.
Rodriguez responded by waving at an eyeball-high heater, and then Robinson Cano flew out to end the threat as the squirrel headed for cover under the padding along the outfield walls.
"It was entertaining," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, "to say the least."
The squirrel kept up his tour for at least another inning, racing the warning track intermittently and at one point trying to scale the fence in front of the bullpen, with TV cameras tracking its every move.
If there was some sort of symbolism there -- a bizarre distraction during a big opportunity for the Yankees' star slugger that helped send this game into Wednesday scoreless -- it was lost on Harris.
"I don't know what it would mean," Harris said. "It just surprised me a little bit. It was kind of running around and then it got, like, a lot closer than I was expecting. It jumped. I was glad I didn't have to go chase it around like Clark Griswold in 'Christmas Vacation.'"
In the end, the squirrel disappeared and so did the rain -- but not until a strange Tuesday night in the great outdoors had set up an unusual Wednesday as well.
"We saw the lightning. We saw the squirrel," Gardenhire said. "We had it -- the rain, the whole package, it was there."