Twins clinch division under a moonlit Minnesota sky

Ron Gardenhire patted me on the back when I congratulated him on the AL Central championship during the celebration at Target Field Tuesday night.

But it was the Twins manager, players and organization who deserved a big pat on the back. They won the AL Central Division title in classic Twins style. And they did it under an open moonlit sky on a crisp September evening at Target Field.

Jim Thome ready at the plate. Thome homered Tuesday night.

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(Photos by paul Huttner. Click for bigger images.)

A few hundred die hard fans stayed at Target Field for more than an hour after the Twins defeated Cleveland 6-4 Tuesday night to wait for the inevitable news that Oakland had defeated the Chicago White Sox. When the news came down, the fans and Twins locker room erupted in celebration.

The season clinching victory came on a perfect weather night for baseball. Somehow, throughout the most severe weather season in Minnesota history, the Twins have led charmed weather lives. Only two games have been delayed by weather all season long. Both were completed within 24 hours during the same homestand.

As the harvest moon shone brightly overhead Tuesday night, the Twins reaped the benefit of a season of baseball sewn outdoors under the Minnesota sky.

Larry DiVito mans his position as Head Groundskeeper at Target Field.

I was fortunate enough to draw the lucky straw filling in as the official "game day meteorologist" for the Twins on the day they clinched the title. Twins head groundskeeper Larry DiVito and I talked weather during the game, and I had a chance to get his observations on the possible center field "wind swirl" that may be knocking down potential home run balls. The way Target Filed is laid out seems to produce a swirling wind in the outfield that tends to slow down balls in flight.

But there was no slowing down the Twins AL Central Championship train tonight. When the clubhouse doors opened to the media as the title was clinched, Twins players erupted into celebration and a shower of champagne filled the clubhouse sky. Here are a few (somewhat blurry) photos I was able to snap in the celebration.

Twins players under a champagne shower.

Michael Cuddyer reflects on the division title.

Joe Mauer soaks in the good news.

Locker room bedlam continues

Closer Joe Nathan enjoys the moment with FSN.