TORONTO -- The American League Championship Series moved into the futuristic SkyDome last night, just in time for the Toronto Blue Jays to put their playoff future in jeopardy with a pair of big losses.
Pinch hitter Mike Pagliarulo homered off rookie reliever Mike Timlin in the 10th inning to give the Minnesota Twins a 3-2 comeback victory and a leg up in the best-of-seven playoff series. If that wasn't damaging enough, Blue Jays right fielder Joe Carter suffered an ankle injury in the fifth inning and might not be available for Game 4 tonight.
"It's badly sprained," Carter said, "but I'm a quick healer. Hopefully, there will be a miracle overnight and I'll be out there."
He twisted his ankle when he crashed into the fence trying to take an extra-base hit away from Twins outfielder Shane Mack in the fifth inning. Though he stayed in the game until he was replaced with a pinch runner in the seventh, club officials said there was enough soreness and swelling to warrant a further examination -- and probably X-rays -- today.
"I would say it's 50-50 that he plays," said Blue Jays trainer Tommy Craig. "It will depend on how much swelling he has and how much weight he can bear."
The Twins just added insult to the injury when Pagliarulo hit the sixth pinch homer in ALCS history and gave them back the home-field advantage they had lost in Game 2. Timlin served up a sinker that didn't sink, and Pagliarulo lined it over the right-field fence with one out and save specialist Rick Aguilera warming in the bullpen.
"It felt like my first home run at Yankee Stadium," said Pagliarulo, who spent six seasons with the New York Yankees and two with the San Diego Padres before joining the Twins this year. "I just flew around the bases. I almost missed first base. I don't know if I hit home plate. It was just a great feeling . . . an incredible feeling."
Timlin saw it a little differently. He gave up some big hits against the Twins during the regular season, but nothing like this.
"It was a horrible pitch, right down the middle, a great pitch for him," Timlin said. "This is one of the toughest losses I've ever had.
"I was trying to keep the ball away from him, get him to tap a sinker the other way. But the sinker didn't sink, and he got it up in the air. He hit it well."
Twins reliever Mark Guthrie, who came into the game in the ninth inning, got his first postseason victory for getting one out in the bottom of the ninth. Aguilera pitched a scoreless 10th to get his second save of the series.
The game figured to be a pitched battle from the start. Blue Jays starter Jimmy Key (16-8) is one of the top left-handers in the game, and Twins right-hander Scott Erickson is one of the top candidates for the American League Cy Young Award.
Key, who had skipped his final regular-season start to keep the Twins from getting a free look at him, worked six innings and gave up two runs on five hits before giving way to reliever David Wells. Erickson lasted just four innings and walked five, but pitched resourcefully enough to keep the Twins from getting in too deep.
There was room to wonder if Key would be sharp working with 11 days between starts, but the doubters were disappointed in a hurry. He retired the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a fourth-inning double to Kirby Puckett. He carried a shutout into the fifth before the leadoff triple by Mack led to the Twins' first run and left Carter with a limp.
Erickson took his final turn on Saturday and shut out the Blue Jays for six innings to become one of two 20-game winners in the American League. But he was the one who had trouble getting started last night.
He retired the first two batters he faced in the first inning, but Carter put the Blue Jays on top with a 410-foot line drive over the center-field fence.
The home run was Carter's first in postseason play and it was the first one hit in ALCS competition in 51 innings, dating to a fourth-inning homer by Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs in Game 1 of last year's playoffs.
It appeared to rattle Erickson, at least momentarily. He walked John Olerud and gave up an infield hit to Kelly Gruber before Candy Maldonado hit a line drive off the left-field fence to drive home the second run of the inning.
Erickson walked the first two batters in the fourth to create an instant jam, but Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston inadvertently helped him out of it. He ordered Pat Borders to bunt, in effect giving the struggling Twins starter a free out with light-hitting Manuel Lee coming to the plate.
Lee grounded back to the mound and Devon White hit a shallow fly ball to left, letting Erickson out of the inning untouched. But he would not get through the fifth.