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Metrodome offers plenty of obstacles

By MARC TOPKIN, TIMES WIRES

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002


MINNEAPOLIS -- As if it's not enough the way fly balls get lost against the roof and ground balls take fast hops off the artificial turf, the Metrodome should provide the Twins with another significant advantage today.

It's going to be loud.

Ridiculously, painfully, loud.

Players from the Twins' 1987 and 1991 playoff teams still marvel at the ear-shattering noise.

"You can't hear nothing," Kirby Puckett said. "My ears were ringing and ringing and they hurt for days and days and days. There's nothing like it."

Of the first 12 postseason games at the dome, the Twins have won 11. And the volume could be turned up a notch today because a record crowd of close to 56,000 is expected, and most of them will be making noise and waving the Homer Hankies that were reintroduced for this year's postseason run. It will be an experience for both teams.

"The A's have no idea what they're in for," Minnesota's Doug Mientkiewicz said. "I'm not sure we do."

The A's have been trying to downplay the potential effect of the noise, saying it can't be any tougher than playing in Yankee Stadium. "Who cares? Get in my truck and I'll show you loud," closer Billy Koch said.

Oakland's David Justice knows firsthand what the Metrodome can be like, having played for the Braves against the Twins in 1991. "I remember it being packed, and the hankies, and being very loud," Justice said. "It was definitely a playoff atmosphere."

Strategically, the A's biggest concern is communication, especially among the outfielders. "To be able to hear each other is going to be a little difficult, so we have already discussed methods of trying to alleviate any mistakes out there," Oakland manager Art Howe said.

LEFT, LEFT: The Twins have struggled against left-handed pitchers, and today they get perhaps the best in the league, Barry Zito, who was 23-5 overall and 12-2 since the All-Star break with a 1.91 ERA and a .203 opponent average. The Twins were 23-29 in games started by left-handers (71-38 vs. right-handers), and hit 30 points worse (.252-282). After struggling in his first two starts at the dome, Zito pitched seven shutout innings in a Sept. 8 win.

ANGELS CONFIDENT: One postseason victory is not a big deal to Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia.

"We have a lot to do," a bleary-eyed Scioscia said, six hours after the Angels arrived home following an 8-6 victory over the Yankees in New York that evened their AL division series at 1.

"We aren't raising any pennants saying, "We're here.' This is a constant effort," Scioscia said. "We know what it's going to take to get to the level we want to get."

The Angels have been one of baseball's least-successful teams since they began as an expansion franchise in 1961, appearing in the playoffs only three times before this year and failing to win a postseason series.

INDIANS: Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, a first-round pick, signed for four years and $4-million.

RANGERS: Left-handed reliever John Rocker, who didn't pitch the final 21/2 months because of neck pain, was released.

ROYALS: Tom Gamboa, the coach attacked near first base last month in Chicago, will be shifted to the bullpen next year. Gamboa, who was a bullpen coach in 2001, will be replaced in the first-base coaching box by Luis Silverio.

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