When one of the nicknames for a stadium is the “Homerdome,” it might have a reputation for being a hitter-friendly ballpark. The Metrodome in Minneapolis, an enclosed air-supported structure with a white fabric roof that exists now only in memories, hosted its share of slugfests between its debut in 1982 and its farewell in 2009.
But there were also a few memorable pitching duels, headlined by the 1-0, 10-inning, Game Seven nailbiter that wrapped up the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins. The list of Metrodome pitching gems also included a 1-0 masterpiece between the Twins and Chicago White Sox on August 23, 2005, featuring a couple of hurlers who captured not only the attention of those in attendance but also their fellow countrymen on another continent.
Freddy Garcia, a right-handed pitcher for the White Sox known for his hard slider, and Johan Santana, a left-hander for the Twins known for his devastating changeup, both hailed from Venezuela. Garcia was 28 years old and in his seventh major-league season in 2005; Santana was 26 and in his sixth campaign. This game marked the third time they had faced each other in the major leagues; a season earlier, Santana had won both of their previous matchups.
When asked about the matchup prior to the game, Garcia said he had known Santana since he was 14, as both had been originally signed by the Houston Astros and developed at the Astros’ trailblazing baseball academy in Venezuela. “It’s a big game back in Venezuela,” Garcia said. “I enjoy those big games.”1
The White Sox were in first place in the American League Central Division, 8 games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians and 10½ games ahead of the third-place Twins, who had won the division in each of the three previous seasons. The Tuesday evening matchup, which drew a crowd of 33,572, was the first game of the three-game series, with the White Sox starting a 10-game road trip and the Twins in the middle of a seven-game homestand.
Santana, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and first Venezuelan to win the award in either league, had a 5-1 record and a 1.82 ERA since being selected for his first All-Star Game in July. He was 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA against the White Sox in two previous starts that season, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning the previous week at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
There was no such drama for Santana this time: White Sox third baseman Pablo Ozuna singled to right field on the first pitch of the game. The early offense did not set a trend for the night, as both teams mustered only four hits total in a matchup that was completed in a tidy 2 hours and 8 minutes.
Coming into the game, Garcia owned a 7.20 career ERA in the Metrodome but was 9-1 with a 2.58 ERA on the road in 2005. He set the tone for his outing by getting two groundouts in the first inning; 15 Twins grounded out in the game.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer, in his first full major-league season after an injury-plagued rookie year, walked with two outs in the first and walked again in the fourth, showcasing a keen eye at the plate that became one of his trademarks in a 15-year career. Besides Michael Cuddyer reaching on Ozuna’s sixth-inning error, Mauer’s walks were the only baserunners through seven innings against Garcia, who threw 58 out of 95 pitches for strikes.
After Ozuna’s first-inning single, Santana retired eight White Sox batters in a row. When Chicago center fielder Aaron Rowand struck out for the second time in the top of the fourth inning – again on Santana’s changeup – Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer said, “How many guys have left home plate muttering under their breath about that changeup this year?” “186?” responded Twins analyst Bert Blyleven.2
Over eight innings, Santana threw strikes on 72 of 95 pitches for a 76 percent strike percentage. “When Santana came to the [Astros] academy, he was an outfielder,” Garcia recalled. “He decided to become a pitcher. It was a good choice.”3
Great defensive plays complemented Garcia’s and Santana’s great pitching. In the top of the fourth, Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart had to leave the game after crashing into the fence making a running catch off the bat of White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko. After reaching on Ozuna’s error in the sixth, Cuddyer was stranded at third base when Jermaine Dye ended the inning with a leaping catch against the right-field fence off the bat of Twins shortstop Nick Punto. (As if distracted by the catch, Punto and White Sox first baseman Geoff Blum collided while Punto was rounding first.)
Twins center fielder Lew Ford completed the outfield trifecta with a dazzling catch off the bat of Ozuna to end the top of the eighth. Ford, filling in for the injured Torii Hunter, who had broken his ankle at Fenway Park in July, was the reigning American League Player of the Week.
Garcia retired Twins batters on groundouts for all three outs in an inning three times during the game. When Minnesota’s Mauer (a future AL MVP and three-time batting champion), Justin Morneau (a future AL MVP and NL batting champion), and Matt LeCroy all grounded out in the seventh, Garcia’s bid for the first White Sox no-hitter since Wilson Alvarez in 1991 remained intact.
But Garcia’s no-hitter – and the scoreless tie – was broken up by a solo home run off the bat of Twins right fielder Jacque Jones leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Jones hit a 1-and-2 curveball 423 feet into the retracted football seats beyond the center-field fence.
“It was a pretty good pitch, but I think he was looking for it,” Garcia said. “As soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.”4
“The whole at-at bat I wanted him to get the ball up,” Jones said. “He got a couple down in the dirt and I went after them. Then he got one up and I didn’t miss it.”5
Why not let Santana, who had retired 15 out of his last 16 batters, finish the game? Due up in the ninth was righty power-hitter Konerko, second in the AL with 41 homers in 2004 and headed for 40 more home runs in 2005. Gardenhire noted afterward that Konerko had “three great at-bats” off Santana.6
As it happened, Carl Everett walked with one out, bringing up Konerko as the potential go-ahead run. But Nathan fanned Konerko, then Rowland, preserving Santana’s 1-0 win and garnering his 32nd save of the season.
Nathan remarked on the Metrodome’s crowd noise at the end of the game. “Since I’ve been here that’s the loudest I’ve heard,” Nathan said. “It was a noise I couldn’t get out of my head. I couldn’t think … which was probably a good thing.”7
It was only the second time in White Sox history that they lost a game while throwing a one-hitter and only the second time in Twins history that they had won a game with only one hit.8
“If you’re a baseball fan, that’s one of the best games you’re ever going to see,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.9 “It really was a playoff atmosphere out there,” Gardenhire added. “I’m sweating, and it wasn’t really that hot.”10
The game was a highlight for the Twins, who finished the season 83-79, 16 games behind first-place Chicago. The Metrodome, the site of this memorable pitching duel, was demolished a few years after the Twins moved into their new home, Target Field, in 2010.
Despite the loss that night, greater things were ahead for Garcia and the White Sox in 2005. Chicago finished the regular season 99-63 and won its first World Series championship in 88 years. Garcia was on the mound for the clinching game of the World Series, pitching seven scoreless innings against the Astros, his former organization, at Minute Maid Park.
This article was fact-checked by Stew Thornley and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for pertinent information, including the box score and play-by-play.
1 Mark Gonzales, “Nothing but Fiction in Forfeit Report,” Chicago Tribune, August 23, 2005: 4, 4.
2 Fox Sports North Minnesota Twins Broadcast Video, Accessed on November 12, 2022.
3 Gonzales, “Nothing but Fiction in Forfeit Report”
4 Mark Gonzales, “1 And Stunned,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 2005, 4, 1.
5 Tom Powers, “Feel-Good Finish After Dramatic Game,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 24, 2005: D1.
6 Phil Rogers, “Batters Feeling an October Chill,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 2005: 4, 1.
7 Jim Souhan, “Highlight Reel Thrills and Spills Make August Duel Meaningful,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 24, 2005: C8.
8 As of the end of the 2022 season it had happened three times to the White Sox with the last time being on April 15, 2007. It has only happened twice to the Twins, with the other time being on September 6, 1964.
9 Joe Christensen, “Nothing Comes Easy,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 24, 2005: C8.
10 Tom Powers, “Feel-Good Finish After Dramatic Game.”