Twins regroup to beat A's in Game 1

Posted: Wednesday, October 02, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In the first two postseason innings of their lives, the young Minnesota Twins made three errors, allowed four unearned runs and reached their boiling point.

It wasn't the way October was supposed to be for the Twins, particularly the ones who've been dreaming of the playoffs since their days together in the low minors. There was an emotional dugout scene -- and the jitters evaporated, replaced by hard-nosed play and growing confidence.

A.J. Pierzynski had four hits, and Corey Koskie homered and drove in three runs as the Twins overcame an early deficit and a series of fielding blunders to beat the Oakland Athletics 7-5 Tuesday in the first game of the AL division series.

It wasn't a happy time when the Twins came back to the dugout down 5-1 in the second inning of the franchise's first postseason game since winning the 1991 World Series -- largely thanks to their own mistakes, including an infield popup that four Twins allowed to drop untouched.

Starting pitcher Brad Radke slammed his glove into the dugout bench. Pierzynski, their volatile All-Star catcher, fumed and shouted. Several players yelled angrily at each other -- until one of them said something that made sense.

''Torii (Hunter) came in screaming,'' Doug Mientkiewicz said. ''He was saying, 'We've waited our whole lives for this! Let's get our heads out and get it done! We've still got seven innings!'''

But the Twins, who defied baseball's conventional wisdom about small-market teams to win the AL Central, steadily rallied back with offense from nearly every player -- eight Twins got a hit -- and more of the steady bullpen work that's been one of their strongest assets.

Eddie Guardado capped four innings of scoreless relief with the save, getting pinch-hitter Adam Piatt on a fly to right with two runners on to end it.

The Twins were the best defensive team in the majors this season, making just 74 errors. They tied the division series record for errors in a game, yet still came back to win.

''We don't make three errors. We just don't do that,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''At one point in the game, it was comical. ... The game was getting a little crazy on us. I'd have a hard time this year finding three innings we played like that. I think it was just nerves. We got some stuff out of our system today.''

Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Wednesday, with Mark Mulder pitching for Oakland against Joe Mays.

Eric Chavez drove in two runs for the A's, who tied the Yankees for the major league lead with 103 victories in the regular season. But Oakland didn't get the standout pitching that's been its trademark in three straight playoff campaigns.

Hudson, the longest-tenured member of Oakland's Big Three starters, never got comfortable in 5 1-3 shaky innings. He allowed eight hits and four runs in his first career loss to Minnesota.

''The bottom line is we just didn't pitch today,'' Hudson said. ''They gave us some breaks early in the game, (but) they settled down. Obviously we would've liked to have won, but there's a lot of baseball left to be played.''

Mientkiewicz homered for the Twins, who took the lead with a three-run sixth inning. Koskie put Minnesota up 6-5 with a bases-loaded groundout against Ted Lilly (0-1), who relieved Hudson moments earlier.

Brad Radke (1-0), who stopped Oakland's AL-record 20-game winning streak last month with a six-hit shutout in Minneapolis, allowed eight hits and five runs -- although just one was earned -- in five innings.

Once Radke left, Minnesota's outstanding bullpen came through again. Johan Santana, J.C. Romero and Guardado shut out the A's.

Miguel Tejada, Oakland's top run-producer and MVP candidate, struck out twice in the late innings, stranding three runners.

The Coliseum crowd of 34,853 was enthusiastic for its AL West champions, but thousands of empty seats remained in the upper deck.

''Last year (against the Yankees), we won the first game and ended up losing,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. ''The year before, we won the first game and ended up losing. What we've been through the last couple of years should show us this isn't the end of the road.''



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