Athletics hit four home runs, roll to wild win over Twins

Oakland seizes 2-1 lead in series with 6-3 victory

Division Series

October 05, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - Oakland Athletics manager Art Howe shared a belly laugh with pitching coach Rick Peterson during the second inning last night, wondering how much zanier Game 3 of this American League Division Series could get.

Never mind that the A's would use four home runs to pound out a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins before a frenzied, sellout crowd of 55,932 at the Metrodome. Never mind that Oakland would take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series, with a chance to seal it today in Game 4.

Howe and Peterson had already seen the first inside-the-park home run in A's postseason history. They had watched the Metrodome roof turn their infielders into pretzels on two misplayed pop-ups.

So when Barry Zito had a fastball slip out of his hand and do a slow roll to the catcher for a wild pitch, Howe and Peterson just lost it.

Hey, who replaced the baseball with a badminton birdie? "I am glad we were on turf, or it wouldn't have made it across the foul line," Howe said, needling Zito in the post-game news conference. "I am sure Barry wasn't laughing, but we were."

Zito composed himself and escaped the second inning without further embarrassment. He lasted six innings, long enough for the Twins to erase a three-run deficit, and long enough for Jermaine Dye to put Oakland right back in the lead.

After Minnesota tied the score at 3 with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, Dye led off the sixth inning with a line drive into the left-field seats.

"That crushed us," said Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who atoned for his misplay on Ray Durham's inside-the-park homer when he doubled and scored in the fourth inning and singled home the tying run in the fifth.

Oakland scored two more in the seventh to pull away, as Randy Velarde delivered a pinch-hit, run-scoring double off Twins reliever Johan Santana and scored on Miguel Tejada's sacrifice fly.

Billy Koch pitched the ninth for his first career postseason save.

"We were just hoping," Howe said, "that some sanity would start to prevail, and some normalcy would take place."

The beginning was anything but normal.

With the Homer Hanky-waving crowd at a fever pitch, Oakland leadoff hitter Durham lined a pitch from Rick Reed to center field. Hunter, who won a Gold Glove last season, charged the ball and gambled, attempting a shoestring catch.

But the ball went under his glove and rolled to the outfield wall. Durham stumbled around first base but still had time to score. Left fielder Jacque Jones retrieved the ball, and the relay throw through shortstop Cristian Guzman was not in time.

"I'm an aggressive player," Hunter said. "I made a decision to go for the ball at the last second. It had a little sink on it and went under my glove.

"That could have changed the momentum of the game."

It certainly quieted the crowd. And things got even quieter when Scott Hatteberg followed with a 392-foot home run over the right-field wall.

Five pitches into the game, Reed was already behind 2-0.

Durham, who came to Oakland this season in a trade from the Chicago White Sox, had seen more than his share of spectacular plays from Hunter over the years, so this was a nice change.

"He's a tremendous center fielder," Durham said. "And to finally get one by him after all the balls he's taken from me, I like that."

It didn't take long for Oakland to realize its two-run lead wasn't safe.

Minnesota's half of the first started with Hatteberg, Oakland's first baseman, completely losing a pop-up from Jones. The ball rolled foul, and Zito minimized the damage with a strikeout.

In the second inning, Hunter popped up, and Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis collided with Hatteberg, allowing the ball to drop for an error.

Zito followed that display with his 25-foot flutter ball.

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