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Twins prove to be survivors yet again

TWINS 11, A'S 2: Minnesota's big fourth forces Game 5.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002

MINNEAPOLIS -- These Twins don't go away easily.

Bud Selig found that out last winter, when his ill-conceived contraction plan failed. The A's found it out Saturday, when the Twins fought off elimination and embarrassed them 11-2.

As a result, the A's this afternoon find themselves for the third straight season facing the possibility of losing in the fifth and deciding game of the first-round American League playoffs.

"We're not too good in Game 5s; hopefully we can switch that up," third basemen Eric Chavez said. "We were playing the Yankees so it's a lot different. Everything's a lot different this year."

Sure it's different; heck, the Yankees aren't even playing anymore, having been the first team eliminated from the postseason. But that doesn't mean it will be any easier.

"We can't think about anything that happened the last two years," said Oakland's Miguel Tejada, whose error led to Minnesota's seven-run fourth inning. "We have to think about what's going to happen (today). It's a big game, and now we can lose."

As bad as they played Saturday, the A's actually feel pretty good about today: They'll be out of the Metrodome and they'll have ace left-hander Mark Mulder on the mound against Minnesota's Brad Radke.

But the Twins do, too. "We're real proud of our guys today," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They never say die, and now we get to fly back out to San Francisco, and that's probably the best flight we'll ever have."

The Twins extended this wacky series with another wild game Saturday, scoring seven unearned runs in a fourth inning that resembled something you might see at, say, Tropicana Field, and they headed west with a restored confidence that anything is possible.

"You get tired of people telling us we have no chance," Minnesota's Torii Hunter said. "We have a chance. We're the underdogs and we like that. This whole team almost got eliminated this winter, so we're used to that."

With a record crowd of 55,960 urging them on in full roar, the Twins finally played their kind of game Saturday, staying close and taking advantage of Oakland's mistakes.

"These fans, they've been through hell and back with us," Doug Mientkiewicz said. "The only celebration they deserve to see is ours, not somebody else's."

Tejada, who is likely to be named the AL's Most Valuable Player, made a beaut of a mistake, throwing wildly past third on what seemed the most routine of plays, starting a series of misplays that led to the Twins' rally.

"Miguel is an MVP candidate and Gold Glove candidate," Minnesota's Jacque Jones said, "but when we get guys running around the field and force guys to play catch, some things like this happen."

Tejada's error, the result, he said, of the ball slipping from his hand, allowed Mientkiewicz to score from second to put the Twins up 3-2.

"I was thinking like, please, if I'd eaten one less cheeseburger I would have beat that play, but thankfully he threw it over my head," Mientkiewicz said. "You don't see those guys make a lot of mistakes."

"Miggy usually makes that play," said Oakland starter Tim Hudson, ineffective on three days' rest. "He usually makes that play with his eyes shut. But that happens sometimes."

Still, that was just one run. Two wild pitches, a throwing error by first baseman Scott Hatteberg, a hit batter and three clutch hits later and a 2-all score was 9-2. Game over.

"It was quite comical, I guess you could say," Chavez said.

The Twins, though, weren't laughing. They were just excited to have the opportunity to be playing another day.

"I haven't seen a game yet in this series wind up the way you expected it to," Mientkiewicz said. "I don't think I can take too much more of this."

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