Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says his team embarassed itself in the first three innings of yesterday's opening game of the American League division series. But the team is savouring innings four through nine, during which it battered the vaunted Oakland pitching staff and silenced the A's bats for a 7-5 victory.
The Twins' postseason inexperience was on garish display early in the game. The regular season's best defensive team took the field with what seemed like a bad case of the jitters, committing three errors in the first two innings and falling behind 5-1 to A's pitcher Tim Hudson.
"We don't make three errors. We just don't do that very often," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Honestly it was at the point early in the game that it was kind of comical. You didn't know what to expect with a young baseball team coming into a playoff situation. The game was getting a little crazy on us. We had to gather ourselves and get ourselves under control early in the game."
One moment that looks funny to Twins fans only in hindsight: in the second inning, a softly hit pop fly dropped in the infield while four Twins stood watching. One of them was catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
"You don't want Brad (Radke) to have to catch a pop up, but it's almost his ball because the wind was blowing the ball away from me," said Pierzynski. "It just fell in the perfect spot. It was just meant to be a base hit."
The Twins eventually calmed down, and chipped away at the A's lead. Eight Twins recorded hits. Pierzynksi went 4-for-4 with a triple and three singles. Gardenhire said Corie Koskie's two-run homer in the third inning shifted momentum to the Twins.
"There was some uneasiness in the dugout," said Gardenhire. "There was some guys walking around screaming let's go, and I was trying to calm them down. And then Koskie hit the home run, and everything kind of fell back into place. Right then I think our guys said, hey, we got a shot here."
The Twins took the lead in the 6th. Eddie Guardado capped four innings of scoreless relief by Johann Santana and J.C. Romero with the save, getting pinch-hitter Adam Piatt on a fly to left with two runners on to end the game.
Miguel Tejada, Oakland's top run-producer and MVP candidate, struck out twice in the late innings, stranding three runners.
A's manager Art Howe says don't count his team out. "What we've gone through in the last two years should show us that this isn't the end of the road," said Howe. The A's won the first game of their AL division playoff series with the Yankees in 2000 and 2001 before being eliminated.
The crowd of 34,853 was enthusiastic, but thousands of empty seats remained in the upper deck of the Network Associates Coliseum. One of the seats was happily filled by a former Minnesotan named Haakon Thorsen, who proudly waved a homer hanky in the stands.
"I was at the World Series in '87, '91 and 1965," said Thorsen. "2002! Go Twins!"More from MPR