The field itself remains the domain

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OAKLAND Adidas Johnny Gaudreau Jersey , Calif. — Two pitchers looking to create a first positive memory of Sunday’s opponent go head-to-head when the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics complete a three-game series.


The A’s have won the first two games of the series, getting outstanding performances from starters Paul Blackburn and Edwin Jackson in 3-1 and 7-2 victories.


Oakland, which has won six in a row, allowed five total runs in its last four games.


Right-hander Frankie Montas (4-1, 3.68 ERA) will attempt to continue that run, but will do so in the wake of three consecutive shaky efforts, during which he has allowed 12 earned runs and 24 hits in 15 innings.


The 25-year-old has never started a game against the Indians, but faced them three times in relief, going 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.


One of those bullpen outings against Cleveland came last May, when he gave up two runs in an 8-4 loss.


Montas will have big shoes to fill after the outings by Blackburn and Jackson, who held the Indians to a total of two runs in 13 innings.


With the recent emergence of Blackburn and Jackson and news that Trevor Cahill appears on schedule to return to the starting rotation after the All-Star break, Montas might only have a few opportunities to turn things around before losing his job.


A’s manager Bob Melvin gushed over the performance of Jackson on Saturday in his second straight sharp outing after having been signed off the scrap heap.


“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Melvin said. “That he was available to us was a surprise.”


Having seen the veteran firsthand, the Indians might be wondering why they weren’t the ones who gave the 99-game winner a shot.


Especially with news Saturday that Danny Salazar, a 14- and 11-game winner for the Indians in recent years Adidas Jaromir Jagr Jersey , will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Monday, putting his season in question.


Right-hander Mike Clevenger (6-3, 3.03), who got a greater opportunity last year while Salazar had health issues and responded with a 12-win season, will attempt to salvage one win in Oakland for the Indians on Sunday.


He has pitched well in his last four starts, allowing six earned runs, but he has never beaten the A’s in his career, going 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two games (one start).


The A’s last saw the 27-year-old in a relief role in August 2016 and cuffed him around for four hits and three runs in one inning of a 9-1 victory.


Clevenger will have to hope for more offensive support than the Indians provided Trevor Bauer and Adam Plutko in the first two games of the series. Both pitched well enough to win, allowing five runs and 11 hits in 12 1/3 innings.


The A’s have used the long ball to get the upper hand against the Indians in the first two games. Jed Lowrie, Josh Phegley, Dustin Fowler and Matt Olson all hit homers, accounting for six of Oakland’s 10 runs.

Super Bowl 52 will be played comfortably under the translucent U.S. Bank Stadium roof on a dry artificial turf, leaving the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles without worries of traction trouble or kick-altering winds.



That doesn’t mean the workers in charge of preparing a surface that’s championship-sufficient were free from challenges.


The host Minnesota Vikings came close to reaching the big game, for one.


When they beat the New Orleans Saints with that last-play touchdown pass in the divisional round on Jan. 14, the NFL would have normally already been in takeover mode of the stadium by then. The victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the Atlanta Falcons that weekend was a big help for the league’s exhaustive operations; it sent the Vikings on the road to face the Eagles for the NFC title rather than hosting another postseason game at their not-yet-2-year-old home.


”That would’ve really pushed us back and crunched the time Adidas Justin Faulk Jersey ,” said Ed Mangan, the NFL’s field director. ”We’ve had a few other teams in the past that got close, so you always start out with a `what if.’ You have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C, and you have a backup plan for each one of those. So you’re always prepared for it.”


Then there’s the winter weather, which has its own share of the spotlight this week next to the Patriots and Eagles. Just because the game itself will be played in climate-controlled conditions doesn’t mean the crews are always comfortable, with some outdoor work to be done in the single-digit temperatures. The downtown setting, with a major hospital, several churches and plenty of apartment buildings within a few blocks of the front doors, added some urban-specific security hurdles.


Commuting to the site last week, too, could have been made trickier by a storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on the region. But the City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplows produced a championship-caliber performance.


”We’ve never been held up getting anywhere,” said Mangan, whose team is also responsible for the practice facilities at suburban Vikings headquarters in Eden Prairie (for the Patriots) and at the University of Minnesota a short ride from downtown (for the Eagles).


So are all the preparations finally caught up?


The answer is yes, according to Eric Finkelstein Adidas Jeff Skinner Jersey , the NFL’s senior director of events.


”We’ve been talking to the team and were for multiple months, and we were able to delay the things that we knew we could afford to delay and get a jump on the stuff that we knew we had to get done, even during the playoff game run,” Finkelstein said.


Vikings fans are still decompressing from the loss to the Eagles that dashed their dream of an unprecedented Super Bowl on home turf. So having the home stadium as the backdrop for the big game could be a painful sight either on television or in person. The good news for them and their healing process is that almost all of the team’s logos will be invisible, covered by NFL and Super Bowl signage. The six-panel purple end zones have been pulled off, replaced with Patriots and Eagles paint.


”We want this to look like the Super Bowl and know that you’re here,” Finkelstein said.


The field itself remains the domain of the indefatigable George Toma, the NFL’s grounds crew master who is working his 52nd Super Bowl. Yes, that’s all of them. He’ll turn 89 on Friday, and his pride in the job is just as high as it was five decades ago.


”The cheapest insurance for an athlete from preschool all the way up to professional is a good, safe playing field,” Toma said, ”and that’s what we try to do. For the people in the stands and the people on TV, we try to give them a field of beauty and then some.”


There’s less pressure, per se Adidas Duncan Keith Jersey , this week than four years ago in New Jersey during the NFL’s first outdoor Super Bowl in a northern site. There’s still plenty to do.


More than 1,000 performers have been on the field at a time rehearsing for the halftime show. So Toma and his crew use a magnetic rake of sorts to comb the field for any stray nuts, bolts or random wardrobe pieces that might have popped off. They use a stamping tool to gauge the stiffness of the turf every 8 feet or so, to make sure there are no dangerous soft spots. The sand-rubber mixture that serves as the artificial sod underneath the fake grass is supposed to be 1+ inches thick.


Having worked two years for the Vikings at their practice facility and served as the spring training groundskeeper for the Minnesota Twins at their baseball facility in Fort Myers, Florida, Toma has a special affinity for this Super Bowl being held in Minnesota.


”I’ve been through a lot of stadiums worldwide, but in my book I love this stadium,” Toma said. ”This is the best stadium I’ve been in. Why? Everything’s right here for you. We come out that tunnel, and we’re only 100 feet to the playing field for our equipment and for our paint and everything. Not only that, but the people who run this stadium are outstanding, and then some.”