OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Not only are the Minnesota Twins here to
stay, now they're going home -- to open a most unlikely AL
Brad Radke pitched 6 2/3 dominant innings to beat Oakland again,
and the Twins survived a late rally to top the Athletics 5-4 Sunday
in the decisive Game 5 of their Division Series.
The Twins made their first playoff appearance in 11 years
despite a tiny payroll and baseball's offseason plan to eliminate
them. But facing consecutive elimination games, the Contraction
Kids won 11-2 at the Metrodome on Saturday, then crossed half the
continent to win the tense clincher about 30 hours later.
"People keep underestimating us, but we've had our backs
against the wall all year long,'' said All-Star catcher A.J.
Pierzynski, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth. "We're the
Twins. That's the way we like to live, and we're not done yet.''
But it didn't happen without drama. After A's closer Billy Koch
gave up three runs in the ninth, Mark Ellis hit a three-run homer
against Minnesota closer Eddie Guardado to pull Oakland back within
The Twins formed a joyous pile on the field, while many of the
A's sat motionless in the dugout. Later, the Twins doused each
other with champagne and beer -- as well as the ice from the
champagne trays -- while leaving a layer of ice and water on the
The Twins, who ran away with the AL Central, will face Anaheim
in the ALCS beginning Tuesday night in Minnesota. The wild-card
Angels shocked the four-time defending AL champion New York Yankees
in the division series.
During spring training, there probably wasn't a soul who would
have predicted a meeting between the underfunded Twins and the
"I don't think we're surprised to be here, and I don't think
Anaheim is surprised, either,'' All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter
said. "Everybody else in the world? They're surprised as hell.''
Matthew LeCroy drove home one run and scored another as the
Twins got two early runs to support Radke, who got two of
Minnesota's three wins in the series. The Twins simply outpitched
the A's, who won 103 games and the AL West with their peerless
Pierzynski homered off A's closer Billy Koch in the ninth to
finally give Minnesota some breathing room, and the Twins leaped
out of their dugout to celebrate. Several hitters later, David
Ortiz added an RBI double to make it 5-1 -- and provide what turned
out to be the winning run.
With consecutive victories against star Oakland pitchers Tim
Hudson and Mark Mulder, the Twins stuck around while big spenders
like the Yankees and Arizona went home early this October.
Hocking also had a run-scoring single as Radke, who also won the
series opener at the Coliseum on Tuesday, mesmerized the A's and
outpitched 19-game winner Mulder.
Minnesota hadn't been to the postseason since 1991, but the
Twins have won all five playoff series they've been in since 1970.
Oakland has lost its last five series since 1990 -- the last three
in a decisive fifth game.
"What we've got to do is find out how to get it done in three
or four games instead of going to a fifth game,'' said manager Art
Howe, who might not be back to figure it out with the A's.
Oakland hoped the series would turn on its outstanding starting
pitching. Instead, Mulder and Barry Zito were good but not great,
while Hudson was terrible in two starts.
Radke, on the other hand, was phenomenal in his first postseason
starts after eight seasons with Minnesota. He struck out four and
didn't walk a batter Sunday.
Durham had a solo homer in the third, but he was the only A's
player to get to second base against Radke, who left with a runner
on in the seventh. J.C. Romero then got an easy grounder from
Terrence Long, who went 3-for-18 in the series.
But Long wasn't the only lousy Oakland batter. Tejada, the A's
MVP candidate, went 0-for-4 -- striking out against the
hard-throwing Hawkins with two outs and a runner on base in the
eighth -- to finish 3-for-21 (.143) for the series. He also made
several defensive blunders at shortstop, particularly in Oakland's
Game 4 loss.
With the Yankees out of their way, the A's thought this would be
the season when its young roster finally showed it was capable of
great things. Instead, they showed they're still not capable of
handling postseason pressure; their lineup managed just six runs in
the final two games of the series after getting 20 in the first
Mulder, pitching on three days' rest, struck out nine in seven
innings, but he also allowed nine hits and got into trouble in each
of the first four innings.
"I was making a lot of my pitches, but they hit the few
mistakes I made,'' Mulder said. "I just don't think we played that
bad in this series. If Ray hits a two-run homer (in the ninth),
we're not even talking about it. When you lose, I guess you have to
Hocking singled home in the second. The Twins added another run
in the third when Cristian Guzman doubled and scored on LeCroy's
The crowd of 32,146 was smaller than either of the gatherings at
the series' previous mid-week games, but it also was louder and
Guzman got two doubles -- but he was easily thrown out at
third base when he tried to stretch for a triple in the first
inning. ... A's catcher Ramon Hernandez went 0-for-2. He's 1-for-27
in the past two postseasons.