Knoblauch puts hex on Olson this time First hit off closer comes at right time

July 05, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Chili Davis finished it off, but Chuck Knoblauch was the key figure in the improbable comeback by the Minnesota Twins yesterday.

"Two outs, two strikes and [Gregg] Olson on the mound -- that's as deep a hole as you can get into," said ex-Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley, who now performs the same duties for the Twins. "You have to just put it [the ball] in play, make something happen."

Which is exactly what Knoblauch did -- for the first time in his career against Olson. "I think it was my first hit off him," the Twins second baseman said of his two-out single to right field.

"It was," said Olson (1-3), somewhat stunned by the radical turn of events.

For 14 innings the top-scoring team in the American League (the Twins) and the third-highest (the Orioles) had put only two runs on the Metrodome scoreboard.

After the Orioles scored in the 15th, Olson appeared in control as he struck out the first two batters he faced. But, in keeping with the day's activities, strange things happened.

Knoblauch got his hit, Kirby Puckett sliced another single to right field, Kent Hrbek walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Olson was in deep trouble.

"Those guys getting on put the pressure on him," said Davis, whose two-run single decided the game. "With two outs and nobody on base, he pretty much had it his own way."

When Olson missed with his first two pitches to fall behind 2-0, the switch-hitting Davis knew he was in charge. "I couldn't afford to get behind -- and I did," said Olson. "There was no room for error."

In that situation, Davis said he was looking for a certain pitch. "You can't look for the curve and the fastball -- both are too good pitches," said the Twins designated hitter.

"I'm not saying which one -- but I'm picking one pitch to look for in that situation," said Davis. "And he [Olson] knows that. Any hitter has to do the same thing in that situation. At least I think he does."

His pop foul on the 2-0 pitch landed in the third row on the left-field side, but Davis wasn't daunted. "That would've been an ugly way to end the game," he said, "but I felt like I had a good swing at that pitch.

"And the next one, I just stayed on top of it," Davis said of his drive into the right-field corner that enabled the Twins to score for the first time since the second inning.

Davis set off a wild celebration scene reminiscent of postseason play. "When you've been out there all day, it's something to get excited about," said Knoblauch. "It was a funny kind of day. A lot of weird things happened.

"That's as good as I've ever seen Scotty [Minnesota starter Scott Erickson] throw the ball -- including last year, when he was great," said Knoblauch. "When you only give up one run in nine innings, you should win."

Before the day was over, the Twins used six pitchers, two more than the Orioles.

"It was a strange game," said Minnesota manager Tom Kelly. "You had squibblers nobody could catch up to, guys getting thrown out at home plate, walks to the ninth-place hitters -- and a lot of good pitching.

"You have to give them [the pitchers] some credit. You had two high-scoring teams out there and they got only five runs in 15 innings. I thought [Alan] Mills and [Todd] Frohwirth did a magnificent job for the Orioles. They pitched great. We just managed to get a couple of hits when we had to have them."

In the score book, the one that will go down as the game-winner is the one delivered by Davis. But in the Twins clubhouse yesterday, Knoblauch got most of the credit.

He was the instigator, just as he was most of last year when the second baseman was the American League's Rookie of the Year and one of the Twins' most valuable performers in their World Series victory.

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