A's hand Twins rare playoff loss at Metrodome


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics found a great way to
quiet that noisy Metrodome -- hitting home runs, both in and out of
the park.

Ray Durham led off the game with a sinking liner that let him
circle the bases and Scott Hatteberg followed with a drive over the
right-field wall, sending the Oakland Athletics past the Minnesota Twins 6-3 Friday for a 2-1 lead in their AL Division Series.

"There's no reason to be intimidated here -- baseball is won
between the lines,'' said Terrence Long, who had one of four home
runs off Twins starter Rick Reed.

Barry Zito struck out eight in six innings for the win, Ricardo
Rincon pitched two scoreless innings in relief and Billy Koch
closed for the save.

"Winning today was huge,'' left fielder David Justice said.
"Now we know at worst, if we lose tomorrow, we go home and play in
front of our crowd again.''

Game 4 of the best-of-five series is Saturday, with Tim Hudson
starting for the A's against Eric Milton.

Game 3 drew 55,932 -- a Metrodome playoff record. Fans loudly
cheered and twirled their Homer Hankies before the Twins' first
home postseason game since the 1991 World Series.

Oakland turned down the volume in a hurry, though, and handed
the Twins only their second loss in 13 postseason games at the

The shots by Durham and Hatteberg marked the first time in
postseason history a team has hit back-to-back homers to start a

href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=5884">Torii Hunter had two of Minnesota's eight hits and capped a
game-tying, two-run rally in the fifth with an RBI single. The
All-Star center fielder, however, was the one who let Durham's
liner skid under his glove.

"I wish I would've made that play, man,'' Hunter said.

Jermaine Dye's homer in the top of the sixth made it 4-3
Oakland, and the A's bumped their lead back to three in the seventh
against Johan Santana.

Randy Velarde, pinch-hitting for Hatteberg, hit an RBI double to
score Durham, and moved to third on the throw home. Velarde scored
on Miguel Tejada's sacrifice fly off Mike Jackson.

Zito (1-0), whose AL-high 23 victories made him a leading Cy
Young candidate, was 8-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his final 10
regular-season starts.

He didn't have his best stuff -- giving up five hits, three runs
and four walks -- but his teammates provided plenty of offense and
he worked his way out of several jams.

"I'm very lucky,'' said Oakland manager Art Howe. "I have
three of them who do this on a regular basis.''

Zito, effectively using his high fastball more than his
signature curve, squandered a 3-0 lead. He struck out two in a
1-2-3 sixth after Dye gave Oakland the lead back in the top of the
inning with a leadoff homer that chased Reed.

"My job is to keep us in the game,'' Reed said, "and I did
that until the sixth inning. Our guys battled back against a tough
pitcher, and then I gave the game away. I'm taking full
responsibility for this one.''

Reed (0-1), one of only two Twins pitchers with prior postseason
experience, threw 100 pitches and surrendered six hits, four runs
and two walks while striking out eight.

Zito started with three hitless innings, but the Twins slowly
chipped away -- taking nearly every at-bat deep into the count.

Oakland escaped unscathed from a shaky second, an inning where
the A's seemed to get rattled by the noise and the baseball-colored
ceiling that makes it so tough to track balls in the air.

Hunter hit an easy one-out popup between first and second, but
Mark Ellis and Hatteberg collided and let the ball drop for an
error on Hatteberg.

Hunter moved up on Zito's wild pitch that slipped out of his
hand and landed about 20 feet in front of the mound. Two walks
loaded the bases with two outs, but after a conversation with
pitching coach Rick Peterson, Zito struck out Luis Rivas to end it.

"I don't take things like that to heart,'' Zito said of the
dropped popup. "You let that affect you, you're not going to last
very long.''

Zito's teammates are used to a good battle from him.

"He kept us in the game,'' Long said. "That's what our
starting pitchers do ... even when they don't have their best

A.J. Pierzynski hit a blooper to shallow center that Tejada
nearly caught over his shoulder but glanced off his glove for a
single that scored Hunter and made it 3-1.

In the fifth, Jacque Jones walked and scored on Corey Koskie's
triple. With two outs Hunter, smacked a single up the middle to
drive in Koskie and tie it at 3.

The Twins refused to pout, though, knowing there's still a

"I've never been a part of a team with the 25 dumbest guys in
the world,'' Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Some of us don't have the
brain capacity to get down.''

Game notes
Former manager Tom Kelly, who guided the Twins to World
Series titles in 1987 and 1991 and retired after last season, threw
out the ceremonial first pitch to his replacement, Ron Gardenhire.
... Durham's inside-the-park homer was the first in the eight-year
history of the AL Division Series and the first by Oakland in the
playoffs. ... The Twins left nine runners on -- five by Rivas. ...
The four homers Reed gave up set a division series record.