Guardado is master of suspense

Closer gives Twins scare before justifying faith

Athletics-Twins notebook

October 07, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said leaving closer Eddie Guardado in the game during a hellacious ninth inning yesterday "was the hardest decision I've had all year."

After clinging to a 2-1 lead against the Oakland Athletics for most of the game, the Twins scored three runs off A's closer Billy Koch in the ninth, and they had a hard time containing their excitement.

In came Guardado, who had converted 46 of 52 save opportunities this year, including Minnesota's Game 1 victory over Oakland.

The A's quickly mounted some pressure. Eric Chavez singled, David Justice doubled and Mark Ellis hit a three-run homer, bringing Oakland within one run with only one out.

Joe Mays was throwing in the bullpen, presumably in preparation for his Game 1 start in the American League Championship Series. But when Ellis hit the home run, the Twins chased Mays from the mound, making room for left-hander Johan Santana and right-hander Mike Jackson.

"Eddie's been our man all year," Gardenhire said before acknowledging it hasn't always been easy sticking with him. "He's given us heart attacks all year. I'm going to have to go slap him around a little."

After Terrence Long lined to center for the second out, Randy Velarde hit a bloop single to right field. Ray Durham, who had two home runs and hit .333 for the series, came to the plate, and Guardado got him to pop out into right-field foul territory to end the game.

"I was trying to do a little too much," Guardado said. "I got the ball up a little bit. I'm just glad I got the job done."

Empty-seat syndrome

The Bay Area was a sports mecca yesterday, with the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants both hosts of playoff games, and the San Francisco 49ers playing the St. Louis Rams at San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point.

So, the A's attendance suffered for a third consecutive game. After drawing crowds of 34,853 and 31,953 the first two games - both of which were on weekday afternoons - the A's drew just 32,146 yesterday.

Besides the sellout crowds in Minnesota, it seemed like the series time forgot. None of the give games was played in prime time, as the networks avoided it.

"I'll tell you what," Minnesota infielder Denny Hocking said, "it's TV's worst nightmare, the Twins and the Angels."

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