Mays shines in spotlight for Twins, 2-1

Slowed earlier by elbow, then A's, pitcher thwarts Angels in opening win

One unearned run in 8 innings

Selig visits Minnesota, takes contraction barbs

American League Championship Series

October 09, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - The commissioner of baseball stepped inside their house last night, basking in the postseason glow - or maybe it was the overhead lighting - and expressing his gratitude for their mere existence.

With their futures so uncertain only a few months ago, the Minnesota Twins have become hardened enough to deal with anything. They weren't sent to the major-league graveyard, they weren't too distracted to win their division, and they weren't about to let the Anaheim Angels take early command of the American League Championship Series.

Small market, big plans.

Joe Mays bounced back from a horrible outing in the Division Series to retire the last 13 batters he faced, and the Twins held on to win Game 1 of the ALCS, 2-1, before 55,562 at the Metrodome.

Corey Koskie drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, as the Twins improved to 13-2 in playoff games beneath their in flated roof. Mays, whose season has been defined by injury and disappointment, held the Angels to an unearned run over eight innings before closer Eddie Guardado got the last three outs.

Mays, who threw 68 of 98 pitches for strikes, called it "the game of my career' and described the atmosphere as 'overwhelming."

"There was just so much energy, so much enthusiasm in the crowd." he said. "To go out there and give them a good game to watch - I think that gives them the reward."

Commissioner Bud Selig, who wasn't certain to attend the series after attempting to contract the Twins this spring, watched part of the game from owner Carl Pohlad's private box. He visited the press box during the second inning, standing near the back wall while revisiting a subject he"d rather avoid.

Reminded of his plans to eliminate two teams, Selig said, "It's over, it's done."

The fans here, waving their white hankies and screaming as if every pop-up was at their control, won't dismiss it as easily. Maybe it's best that Selig not mingle between innings.

Until yesterday, the Twins had no idea Selig was coming to the game. They constructed steps that would allow him to reach the field without passing through the crowd.

Selig said owners voted 30-0 to contract, "but that's for a later day or maybe a new generation to worry about." As the Twins began to mount a threat, Selig added, "I'm grateful they're here. I'm grateful they have a team."

By the time Selig had finished, the Twins were complet ing their rally with a sacrifice fly by catcher A.J. Pierzynski for a 1-0 lead.

"I think the place had a lot of electricity in it. Obviously, the fans were into it." Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Koskie's one-out double in the fifth off Anaheim starter Kevin Appier broke a 1-1 tie. Luis Rivas led off with a walk and moved up one out later on a single by Cristian Guzman, who was trying to atone for an error that gave the Angels their only run.

Revisiting their past, the Twins invited two of the franchise's most celebrated pitchers, Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat, to participate in the opening ceremonies.

Then they trusted Mays with the ball.

Under more ideal circumstances, Mays wouldn't have started Game 1. But manager Ron Gardenhire needed some one fresh coming off the Division Series.

He wasn't getting someone on a roll.

Mays missed three months of the regular season with muscle and tendon inflammation in his right elbow. In his only post season start, he gave up six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in the Twins' 9-1 loss to Oakland

'My confidence is pretty good." Mays said on the eve of his Game 1 start. "I know I just didn't execute my pitches against Oakland. I got the ball up. Against that team, you get the ball up, the ball flies."

He lost a 1-0 lead in the third inning last night, with a two-out error by Guzman allowing Adam Kennedy to score. Kennedy and David Eckstein singled with two outs, and Darin Erstad sent a four-hopper toward Guzman, who waited on the ball before it glanced off the tip of his glove and rolled through his legs.

The Twins threatened in the fourth when David Ortiz lined a single into right field and was sacrificed to second. Doug Mientkiewicz walked to again crank up the volume in the dome, but Appier got the last two outs.

Pierzynski came close to driving in his second run, sending a pop-up into shallow left field that third baseman Troy Glaus caught with an outstretched glove along the line.

Missed chances would become part of the Twins" imprint on Game 1. After Koskie moved them ahead in the fifth, Ortiz and Torii Hunter stranded two runners in scoring position. Hunter struck out on a pitch low and away, the ball bouncing before catcher Bengie Molina could catch it.

Appier, the only Anaheim player with postseason experience going into the Division Series, threw 94 pitches in five innings before Brendan Donnelly replaced him.

Donnelly hit Guzman with two outs in the seventh, again giving the Twins an opportunity to open a bigger lead against a team that never stopped applying pressure to the New York Yankees in the Division Series. Left-hander Scott Schoeneweis retired Koskie on a fly ball to right field.

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