Minnesota wins ALCS opener

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins just won't go away.

The team that wasn't supposed to make it to opening day isn't a surprise anymore.

Joe Mays shut down Anaheim for eight innings and Corey Koskie hit a go-ahead double Tuesday night, lifting the Twins over the Angels 2-1 in the opener of this improbable AL championship series.

Before 55,562 screaming, Homer Hanky-waving fans in the Metrodome, and with commissioner Bud Selig watching from a luxury suite behind home plate, the Twins signaled the time has come to forget the Yankees, Braves and other big spenders who have dominated the playoffs in recent years.

And they showed just how dominant they are in the Metrodome, improving to 13-2 there in postseason play. Game 2 is in the dome Wednesday night, with Rick Reed pitching for the Twins against Ramon Ortiz.

The Metrodome was festive and loud for its biggest night since Oct. 27, 1991, when Jack Morris pitched a 10-inning shutout against Atlanta to win Game 7 of the World Series 1-0.

This was another tense one, with the Twins getting just five hits and the Angels four. The crowd was on its feet shouting during the key points and throughout the ninth inning.

Baseball owners tried to fold the Twins along with the Montreal Expos last offseason, but were blocked by the Minnesota courts. Since then, the Twins have seemed intent on banging the gavel on all of baseball, wanting to force Selig to hand them the World Series trophy.

''Contract-ula-tions Twins for a superb season/All the way for Bud's sake'' read one sign behind home plate.

''I think the place had a lot of electricity in it. Obviously, the fans were into it,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''They looked like they were reacting to every pitch. I thought it was a great atmosphere.''

Anaheim, too, is a surprise to be here. The Angels are seeking their first World Series appearance since joining the major leagues in 1961.

Mays, hit hard by Oakland in Game 2 of the five-game division series, shut down the high-flying Angels, who hit .376 in their four-game victory over the four-time defending AL champion Yankees -- the highest average by a team in any postseason series.

''He had everything tonight,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He went right at the hitters and made them swing the bats.''

Mays allowed only four hits and an unearned run caused by an error by shortstop Cristian Guzman. Mays, who threw 68 of 98 pitches for strikes, called it ''the game of my career'' and described the atmosphere as ''overwhelming.''

''There was just so much energy, so much enthusiasm in the crowd,'' he said. ''To go out there and give them a good game to watch -- I think that gives them the reward.''

Mays, who struck out three and walked none, came out after the eighth inning. He tightened up a little after the eighth and told his manager he wouldn't mind if Eddie Guardado finished.

''I would have given him the ball. He had the option to go back out there in the ninth,'' Gardenhire said.

Guardado struck out Darin Erstad leading off the ninth, then walked Tim Salmon. After Garret Anderson flied out, he threw a called third strike to Troy Glaus.

''We've always responded well to a tough loss,'' Scioscia said. The Angels lost the opener to the Yankees.

Anaheim's Kevin Appier, winless in four postseason appearances, pitched almost as well, giving up two runs and five hits in five innings, but it wasn't enough.

Minnesota went ahead in the second when Torii Hunter doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and came home on A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly.

Anaheim tied it in the third on singles by Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein, and the error by Guzman on a grounder by Erstad that stayed down on the slick artificial surface. Minnesota had the fewest errors in the major leagues during the regular season (74) and Anaheim (87) was second in the AL.

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