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Mulder strong; A's bats come alive

10/3/2002

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mark Mulder didn't see panic in his
teammates' eyes after the Oakland Athletics' playoff run got off to
a rough start.

He saw a quiet maturity from three years of postseason
experience -- and a pride that wouldn't allow the A's to fall off
the pace in the division series.

David Justice's bases-loaded triple highlighted Oakland's 14-hit
barrage, and Mulder pitched six strong innings as the A's beat the
Minnesota Twins 9-1 Wednesday to even the series at one game
apiece.

Eric Chavez had a three-run homer, and rookie Mark Ellis got
three hits as Oakland emphatically replied to the Twins' 7-5
comeback victory in Game 1 with a tremendous offensive game against
Joe Mays (0-1) and the Twins' bullpen.

''Just looking at the guys in the locker room, you could tell
everybody knew how important this game was,'' said Mulder, who
allowed five hits. ''We've been through this before. There was no
need to say anything. We had to have this one, and we got it. Now,
we'll go to Minnesota and see what happens.''

After losing to the Yankees in the last two postseasons, Oakland
finally got a matchup against a team with even less playoff
experience -- almost none, in fact. The A's used that maturity to
full advantage in Game 2, knocking the Twins down early and never
letting them up.

''I know their makeup, what they're all about, and that's why I
didn't have to sit around and talk to anybody,'' Oakland manager
Art Howe said. ''I just checked out the scene when I came in.
Everybody seemed to be pretty relaxed and confident, and they went
out and played that way.''

Each of the first seven hitters in Oakland's lineup got an
extra-base hit as the A's jumped to an 8-0 lead after four innings.
Justice, the most prolific run-producer in playoff history, added
three more RBI to his record total during Oakland's five-run
fourth.

The A's, who won 103 games and the AL West to earn their third
straight trip to the playoffs, showed they wouldn't let one loss
distract them from their plan to go further into October. Time
after time in the early innings, the A's came up with the timely
hits that eluded them a day earlier.

Miguel Tejada, their MVP candidate, had only an RBI double -- but
the A's haven't relied on one hitter since Jason Giambi left last
winter to join the Yankees. Five players drove in a run, and
leadoff hitter Ray Durham scored three times as Oakland rolled.

''With our offense, we just look for certain guys to check in
from time to time,'' Chavez said. ''Everybody knows our team is
built on pitching. We've just got to ride their coattails as far as
they'll take us. Today, we were able to make it easier.''

The Twins were on an emotional high after winning in their first
playoff appearance in 11 years, but they were brought back to
reality by the A's dominant victory. Minnesota got just seven hits,
scoring its only run on Cristian Guzman's homer in the sixth.

''We belong. Today, it might not seem that we belong, but they
came out with a whooping stick,'' All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter
said.

Game 3 is Friday at the Metrodome, where 23-game winner Barry
Zito will face Rick Reed, one of the Twins' two postseason
veterans. The crowd should be much better -- and a lot louder -- than
the ones in Oakland, where there were thousands of empty seats in
the Coliseum's upper deck for both games.

Playing in the postseason for the 10th time in the last 12 years
with his fourth different team, Justice had another remarkable
October day. His triple down the right-field line broke the game
open, with three runners scampering home.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said he was embarrassed by his
team's effort, and his players agreed.

''That wasn't emotionally draining,'' Doug Mientkiewicz said
with a grimace. ''That was, 'Please hurry up before they score 40
runs against us.'''

With two hits in his major league-record 109th postseason game,
Justice passed Pete Rose for second place in career postseason
hits. Justice has 88 hits -- second only to the Yankees' Derek Jeter
-- and 63 RBI, tops in major league history.

Justice's teams have made the postseason in every year since
1990 -- including 1996, when he was injured -- except for the
strike-shortened 1994 season. He has talked about retiring after
the season, but he would like to add a third World Series ring to
the ones he won with the Braves in 1995 and the Yankees in 2000.

When asked if he's the new Mr. October, Justice said: ''Don't
get Reggie (Jackson) riled up. I've always assured him he'll always
be Mr. October.''

Mulder (1-0) -- who went 19-7 and finished the season on a
six-game winning streak -- wasn't overpowering, but he mostly stayed
out of trouble while striking out three. He didn't allow a runner
to reach third base in the first five innings.

The Twins hit just .252 against left-handers in the regular
season, and they struggled against Mulder -- though Guzman broke up
Mulder's shutout bid with a solo homer in the sixth.

''I guess if you're going to get beat, you might as well get
waxed,'' Gardenhire said.

Mays missed three months of the regular season with an elbow
injury, and he won just once in six September starts. He never
looked comfortable against the A's, allowing nine hits and six runs
in 3 2/3 innings.

Chavez got Oakland started with a three-run homer to right in
the first inning. It was the first postseason homer for Chavez, who
drove in two runs in Game 1.

Tejada, who had just one hit in his first seven at-bats, got
Oakland going in the fourth with an RBI double. After Chavez and
Jermaine Dye walked, Justice cleared the bases -- and Ellis drove
home Justice with a double.

Game notes
Dye was awarded a walk in the fourth when Twins reliever
Tony Fiore licked his hand with a 3-0 count. ... A's catcher Ramon
Hernandez went hitless in four at-bats. He's 0-for-18 over the past
two postseasons. ... Three Twins got their first playoff hits:
Matthew LeCroy, Dustan Mohr and Denny Hocking.