Shoddy Twins don't deserve to win Series

Ken Rosenthal

October 25, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

ATLANTA -- They're house cats unable to play outside. They're homesick kids crying at sleepaway camp. They're Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz weeping, "There's no place like home . . . there's no place like Dome."

Go ahead, root for the Minnesota Twins this weekend. Here's wishing the Atlanta Braves silence the rattle in their Metrodome playpen, then swipe their Homer Hankies as they sob away the World Series.

By now it's no secret the last series road victory by the Twins/Senators franchise came from Walter Johnson in 1925. And it's no secret this Series is proceeding exactly like '87, when the Twins won the first and last two games at home.

Let's hope this one turns out differently, for the Twins don't deserve their second world championship in five years. It isn't so difficult to win in fresh air, before hostile fans, under the other league's rules. But for those who play under a Teflon roof, it's asking for the moon.

The Twins suffered two one-run losses in Atlanta before getting pounded 14-5 last night. They could have won the Series by now, but instead they're down three games to two. Even last night, they trailed only 5-3 after six innings. But they played the BTC entire game in a state of utter disarray.

There was Chili Davis making an outfield start for the first time this season. There was reliever David "Wild, Wild" West stretching his Series ERA to infinity. And there was first baseman Kent Hrbek inexplicably conceding a run by trying to start a double play.

The Twins were 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position the first two games, but only 2-for-27 in Atlanta. What's more, those two hits were flukes. Mike Pagliarulo sliced a bloop single to the opposite field in Game 3. Al Newman hit his first triple since 1989 last night.

Ah, but now things will be better. Now the Twins return to their beloved Metrodome, restore their beloved DH. Manager Tom Kelly grew so fond of the double switch, he pulled two in one inning last night. No, Tom, it isn't rocket science. But please, leave it to your buddies in the NL.

As Hrbek, he of the .158 Series average, explained, "We're happy as hell to get out of here and go back home and play like we've played all season -- no pitcher hitting, the DH back in the lineup. We're hoping like heck history repeats itself."

Hrbek, of course, was referring to '87, when the Twins returned to the Metrodome to crush St. Louis 11-5 and 4-2 the final two games. The frightening truth is that it easily could happen again. But tomorrow night's Game 6 matchup -- Steve Avery vs. Scott Erickson -- favors the Braves.

Erickson won 20 games this season, but has a 5.20 ERA since coming off the disabled list July 15. From every indication, he's still bothered by his strained right elbow. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings in Game 3, and threw his fastball only 81-84 mph.

Avery worked into the eighth and threw only 84 pitches that game. He, too, will be pitching on three days rest, a factor that contributed to poor outings by both Kevin Tapani (4 IP, 4 ER) and Tom Glavine (5.1 IP, 3 ER) last night. But at least he's 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA in three post-season starts.

Pound those drums, baby.

You gotta believe.

For the Twins to win, they'll almost certainly need better work from their bullpen, which has allowed 12 runs the past two games. It's a shame West probably is done for the Series. He has faced six batters and given up four walks, a single and a home run.

Eight of the Braves' 17 hits last night went for extra bases. They scored nine runs the final two innings, and the game got so out of hand, Twins manager Tom Kelly lifted Kirby (.167) Puckett for pinch-hitter Jarvis Brown. For all anyone cared by then, it could have been James Brown.

The Braves fans hollered "Sweep! Sweep!" in a reprise of a chant Puckett recalled hearing in St. Louis in '87. Afterward, they leaned out of their cars into the wee hours doing the tomahawk chop. They acted as if the Series was over. Problem is, it's not.

Kelly claimed if the Twins get by Game 6, they'll have a "helluva shot" with Jack Morris facing John Smoltz in 7. Indeed, the home team has won 22 of the last 28 Series games since Game 5 in That was the first year the DH shifted according to city. From 1976-85 it was used in alternate years.

No question it makes a difference. The Twins are batting .218 in the Series, and Kelly wanted Davis in the lineup last night. Actually, Gene Larkin was his first choice to replace Shane Mack (0-for-15, seven strikeouts), but Larkin has a sore knee. That left one red hot Chili pepper in right.

Davis nearly caught Mark Lemke's RBI triple in the fourth, but it nicked off his glove to give the Braves a 3-0 lead. It was a ball many rightfielders would have handled, but no matter now. Mack will return to right and Davis again will be the DH tomorrow night.

The Twins get their stadium back and their rules back. Here's hoping they don't get their championship back as well. That's not baseball they're playing. It's Domeball, nothing more.

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