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Twins ready for first postseason since 1991

9/29/2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Another day, another go-ahead homer for Bobby Kielty.

But no, he's still not starting in the playoffs.

Kielty gave Minnesota an eighth-inning lead with a two-run homer
for the second time in as many days, and the Twins moved onto the
postseason with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

Manager Ron Gardenhire prefers to use Kielty, a switch hitter
who can play all three outfield positions, off the bench. So that's
where he'll be when the Twins begin the playoffs Tuesday at AL West
champion Oakland.

"He gives us that little extra off the bench,'' Gardenhire
said. "That's not to say I wouldn't (start him). We'll try
anything to win.''

The AL Central winners, in the postseason for the first time
since winning the 1991 World Series, won five of six in the regular
season's final week and finished a three-game sweep of the White
Sox.

So is this team prepared for the playoffs?

"A lot of guys have never been there before,'' said Eric
Milton, who pitched five shutout innings in his final tuneup. "I
don't think you can really say you're ready for it.''

With AL saves leader Eddie Guardado getting a rest, J.C. Romero
worked the ninth for his first save. Jacque Jones went 3-for-3 with
an RBI to raise his average to .300 for the Twins, whose
eighth-inning rally started when Matthew LeCroy walked with two
outs and the game tied at 1 against Mike Porzio (2-2).

Mike Ryan pinch-ran and Kielty, whose two-run homer in the
eighth against Mark Buehrle gave the Twins a 3-2 win Saturday, hit
3-0 pitch into the center-field seats.

Two curtain calls in two days for Kielty, who stumbled on the
top step of the dugout Sunday as a teammate nudged him out on the
field to acknowledge the Homer Hanky-waving crowd of 31,270.

"He stumbled a little bit there, but when you're getting
curtain calls, you're doing something right,'' Gardenhire said,
"so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt there.''

The White Sox, who swept a three-game series from the Twins last
weekend, finished at 81-81 and 13½ games back of Minnesota -- far
worse than anyone expected.

"I'm glad the young kids got to play at the end,'' said manager
Jerry Manuel. "I think we're going in the right direction. I'm
looking forward to next spring.''

Just as fellow starters Brad Radke, Joe Mays and Rick Reed were
this week, Milton was sharp in his final outing before the
playoffs.

Expected to start Game 4 of the Twins' divisional series against
Oakland Saturday -- if it's necessary -- Milton retired the first
eight batters he faced until walking Willie Harris with two outs in
the third.

Milton didn't give up a hit until Aaron Rowand's single with one
out in the fifth. Joe Borchard followed with a single, and one out
later Harris beat out a grounder to third for an infield hit. But
Doug Mientkiewicz whirled and threw a strike to Pierzynski, who
tagged out Rowand at the plate.

Milton allowed three hits and a walk while striking out six.
Reed, who'll start Game 3 Friday at the Metrodome, made his first
relief appearance since 1997 and pitched a scoreless sixth.

Rowand singled off Juan Rincon in the seventh and scored on a
double by Miguel Olivo to tie the game at 1 and keep Milton stuck
on 13 wins. After a three-hit shutout of the White Sox on Aug. 1,
Milton tore his left knee Aug. 6 and missed a month.

Bob Wells (2-1), who Gardenhire said was the last man left off
the postseason roster, pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory.

Jon Garland pitched seven strong innings for the White Sox.

Luis Rivas hit a two-out single in the third and sped around to
score on a double to right-center by Jones, who's been the Twins'
best hitter in the second half with a .322 average and 14 homers in
236 at-bats since the All-Star break.

"We had good at-bats this week,'' Gardenhire said. "You can go
right on down the line. We're ready to play.''

Game notes
The Twins finished with 94 wins, their fifth-highest total
in team history. ... Chicago DH Frank Thomas, who struck out in his
last at-bat on Saturday, struck out three times and had his batting
average dip to .252. ... Reed has made 224 starts in his career and
21 relief appearances. ... The Twins a season attendance total was
1,924,473. That's an average of 23,759 per game -- up from 22,012
last season. ... Over the last 16 games, White Sox starters had a
2.49 ERA. The 22-year-old Garland went 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA over his
final seven starts.