Busting their chops Twins' Tapani puts Braves in a 2-0 hole

October 21, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the biggest game of his life, Kevin Tapani couldn't remember the pitch he threw for the most crucial out. He was just happy to be allowed to throw it.

Obviously, the Minnesota righthander doesn't have the samretention as Jim Palmer, the Orioles' Hall Of Famer who remembered every critical pitch he or anyone else threw over a period of 19 years.

Tapani was the winning pitcher last night as the Twins beat thBraves, 3-2, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series, which resumes tomorrow night in Atlanta. Home runs by Chili Davis, a two-run blast in the first inning, and a solo game-winner by unheralded third baseman Scott Leius provided the offensive support, but it was an eighth-inning escape act by Tapani that enabled the Twins to win.

With runners on first and third and one out, Tapani had to deawith Ron Gant and David Justice, the third and fourth hitters in the Atlanta lineup. "I was surprised, but I'm glad he [Twins' manager Tom Kelly] let me stay in," said Tapani.

When he was aksed how he managed the escape, Tapanquipped: "I don't know."

For the record, a foul pop to the catcher (Gant) and a routine fly to left (Justice) got the Twins over the hump and Leius' homer gave Tapani the win. "I'm not sure what the pitch was that Gant popped up," said Tapani. "It was something away."

As good as Tapani was, he was only one pitch better than ToGlavine, a complete game loser. "Anything I say about Tap goes for Glavine, too," said Kelly. "He pitched a fantastic game."

The game provided one of those classic matchups for which thWorld Series is noted. After being victimized by a botched pop fly on the first pitch of the game, and Davis' subsequent two-run homer, Glavine was magnificent until Leius connected for the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"To tell you the truth I thought I hit a fastball," said Davis. "Buwhen I went up there again I saw about five pitches that were thrown harder than that, so I guess I hit a changeup."

Both Tapani and Glavine featured similar styles -- good enougfastballs, mixed with off-speed stuff and good breaking pitches.

The "something away," according to catcher Brian Harper, was fastball. "But it was a 2-and-0 changeup that set up the fastball."

Even Kelly acknowledged that the eighth inning was a strangtime for his starter to be pitching out of a jam. "He made some good pitches -- he went right after them," said Kelly. "And you've got to remember, this wasn't the second inning when you're still fresh. This was the eighth inning, after 100 pitches."

That being the case, why was Tapani still in the game?

"Because I felt like he deserved the chance to win it or lose ihimself," Kelly said without hesitation. "Right there, it was his, and then that was it.

"We were going to bring [Mark] Guthrie in to face [Sid] Bream tstart the ninth, but when Scotty hit the home run we went to Aggie [Rick Aguilera]. I'm glad we got the kid a run, he deserved to win."

Kelly sounded like a manager that was interested in salvaginhis pitcher's confidence in a mid-summer game. Both Justice and Bream are lefthanded hitters -- and Tapani was going to face one, but not both. Managers don't normally worry about a pitcher "deserving a chance to win or lose himself" during a World Series situation like that. But Kelly does not always operate in a normal ++ fashion.

"That's right -- this is not the time to worry about buildinconfidence," he said. "We weren't doing that. The kind of hits they got had something to do with it.

"If they had really hit the ball hard, that would be different. Thegot a bunt hit [Rafael Belliard] and a dribbler [Terry Pendleton] and all of a sudden it felt like the home-field [advantage] was disappearing, and you don't like to see that happen.

"You just hope he [Tapani] can make some pitches in that spot -and he did. It was a gutty effort. Right there, it was his game to win or lose."

"I watched the NLCS just like everybody else," said Davis, "anyou could see he [Glavine] is not going to make too many bad pitches. Period. You have to be patient and wait until he gives you a pitch to hit -- because you know he's not going to do it too often. He tries to finesse you -- take the sting out of your bat."

Tapani followed a similar pattern. "He made some goooff-speed pitches in the eighth inning," said Kelly. "He went right after them, which is what you like to see."

The 2-and-0 changeup to Gant was probably the key pitch of thgame, which might be why Tapani forgot what he threw next. "He didn't throw any more [changeups] than he usually does," said Harper.

"We pretty much stayed with his normal game plan. They [thBraves] hadn't seen him, so there was no reason to do anything different.

Much had been made of the fact that Tapani lost the only gamthe Twins didn't win in the ALCS against Toronto, but that fact seemed to be lost on the young righthander. "There are other things more important to me," said Tapani. "We won in five pTC games against a good Toronto team, so you have to be happy."

As for his eighth-inning encounter with potential disaster, Tapanmerely shrugged his shoulders. "I was surprised to face Justice," he admitted, "but I'm glad he [Kelly] had confidence in me."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox called Justice's at-bat the key plaof the game. "We could have changed a few things with a big hit there," he said.

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