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A's face Game 5 for third straight season

10/6/2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As the Oakland Athletics are finding out, the
Minnesota Twins are a tough team to eliminate.

The team that baseball couldn't get rid of flustered Tim Hudson
with a seven-run fourth inning, Eric Milton shut down the A's and
the Twins forced a decisive fifth game in the American League Division Series
with an 11-2 victory Saturday.

Given new life when the owners' contraction plan was blocked in
court just before spring training, Minnesota is one victory away from
the AL Championship Series.

''With this group, it seems like our backs have been against the
wall since we were born,'' said first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz,
who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer.

Game 5 is Sunday afternoon in Oakland, with Game 2 winner Mark
Mulder pitching for the A's against Brad Radke.

''That's what we needed,'' center fielder Torii Hunter said. ''I
think we do have a little momentum going. We've got another crack
at Mulder -- now we'll see what we can do with him.''

Most Valuable Player candidate Miguel Tejada gave Oakland an early lead with a
two-run homer, but his throwing error started the fateful fourth
and led to another early exit by Hudson.

''It just started snowballing,'' Hudson said. ''They did a great
job of taking advantage of our miscues. That's what they're good
at.''

Oakland was forced to a fifth game in the opening round for the
third consecutive year. The A's, eliminated by the New York Yankees
the past two seasons, lost for the fifth time in a row when they
were one victory away from the ALCS.

''We can't worry about that,'' Minnesota left fielder Jacque
Jones said. ''They're a great team -- they're still dangerous.''

Hudson frequently went deep in the count and wound up throwing
90 pitches in 3 1/3 innings -- his shortest outing since lasting
three innings on Sept. 19, 2001, against Texas.

The starter in both of Oakland's defeats this series, Hudson
allowed seven runs (two earned), five hits and two walks and has
given up 11 runs in 8 2/3 innings of the series. He got a
no-decision in Game 1.

Milton (1-0) gave up six hits, two runs and a walk while
striking out three.

''We weren't able to do anything against him,'' A's first
baseman Scott Hatteberg said. ''He shut us down.''

Mientkiewicz started the fourth-inning rally with a single and
A.J. Pierzynski worked a one-out walk.

Then the A's -- who talked about keeping their composure and not
letting the noise bother them after 6-3 victory in Game 3 -- came
completely unraveled as the Metrodome playoff record crowd of
55,960 roared.

''Pandemonium,'' was how Jones described it.

When the damage was done, this was the ugly result: two wild
pitches, a hit batsman, two errors, four hits and seven unearned
runs.

''When the guys are hitting, scoring runs like that, you get
some adrenaline going yourself,'' Milton said. ''Anytime you score
seven runs in an inning, it's a definite plus.''

Tejada threw Luis Rivas' grounder over Eric Chavez's head at
third, allowing Mientkiewicz to score and giving the Twins a 3-2
advantage, their first lead since Game 1.

Pierzynski slid home on a wild pitch by Hudson, and Jones was
plunked on his foot.

Hatteberg fielded Cristian Guzman's grounder and threw errantly
to catcher Ramon Hernandez. Rivas stopped short of the plate, let
the ball trickle by him and scored to make it 5-2.

Game 1 loser Ted Lilly relieved, and Corey Koskie got his fifth
RBI of the series with a single that scored Jones. Another wild
pitch, a run-scoring double by Hunter and a run-scoring single by
Mientkiewicz, his second hit of the inning, gave the Twins a 9-2
lead.

''We knocked it around and ran around the bases like we've been
doing the whole season,'' Jones said. ''Maybe they rushed a little
bit, but that's our game. We use our speed.''

Shortly after that, the Twins' clubhouse crew started loading
their equipment for a trip to California.

''We just didn't help Huddy out,'' Hatteberg said.

Hudson had already started to falter in the third after Tejada's
homer gave him a 2-0 lead.

''But after we tied it up in the next inning, the homer was all
forgotten about,'' Milton said.

Guzman drove in a run with a groundout, and David Ortiz -- 0-for-8 in the first three games -- doubled to tie it.

Milton was rolling this summer, picking up his 13th victory with
a three-hit shutout against the White Sox on Aug. 1, but five days
later he tore the meniscus in his left knee while warming up in the
bullpen in Baltimore.

Returning to the rotation Sept. 2, Milton struggled to regain
his rhythm until two strong starts in the final week of the regular
season.

Effectively running his fastball inside against the five
righties in Oakland's lineup, Milton consistently hit 93-94 mph on
the stadium radar and cruised once he got the lead.

''Milty did what we needed to have done,'' Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said. ''It was a great performance.''

Game notes
Jack Morris, a Minnesota native who threw 10 shutout
innings in the Twins' 1-0 Game 7 victory over Atlanta in the 1991
World Series, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Twins third
base coach Al Newman -- an infielder on the '91 team. ...
Mientkiewicz became just the second player to get two hits in an
inning during a division series. Chuck Knoblauch did it for the New
York Yankees in 2000 against Oakland. ... The Twins' seven-run
fourth was the most by any team in a division series, but then the Angels scored eight in an inning later in the day against the Yankees. ... Milton
was the first Twin to survive the first inning without a run this
series.