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Twins to start Radke in Game 2
10/05/2004 8:48 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Minnesota's fraternal Twin is no longer the top starter. But any doubts whether Brad Radke can still carry his team with something at stake vanish in his record.

It's not about the wins and losses, though Radke's 11-8 mark this regular season includes the lowest loss total of his Major League career. The important part of Radke is found in the games he's pitched.

His 3.48 ERA is the best of his career, a full run lower than last year and two-fifths of a run below his average when he won 20 games in 1997. It also ranked fourth lowest in the American League behind teammate Johan Santana.

Yet his lowest win total in a full season since he broke into the Majors came down not to offense given up, but offense given.

"He's really pitched his tail off," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's the old 'sue for lack of support.' We haven't scored many runs for him."

At just over 4.5 runs per nine innings while the pitcher of record, Radke had the ninth lowest support among AL starters with enough innings to qualify for an ERA title. Only Anaheim's John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, the Dodgers' Jose Lima and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter enter the playoffs with less support.

The Twins scored seven or more runs in eight games during Johan Santana's 18-game unbeaten streak to end the season. In that same span, Radke enjoyed three games with seven runs or more.

But instead of taking him aback, it's taken Radke back to his younger days.

"I think early in my career, pitching with this club really helped me become a better pitcher," Radke said, "because I knew we were not going to score a lot of runs. I had to go out there and pretty much shut the opponent down. I think that was a big part of my career, and especially this year [when] we can score some runs. It was tough this year and I think it will help me out going down the stretch."

Famine and ...
Lowest regular-season run support per nine innings among starting pitchers who qualified for the postseason:
K. Escobar, ANA 3.93
J. Lackey, ANA 4.36
J. Lima, LA 4.44
C. Carpenter, STL 4.50
B. Radke, MIN 4.55
R. Clemens, HOU 4.79
W. Williams, STL 4.93
R. Ortiz, ATL 5.14
J. Vazquez, NYY 5.18
C. Schilling, BOS 7.54
D. Lowe, BOS 7.29
B. Colon, ANA 7.00

In games where every pitch counted, Radke counted as much for the Twins as he did when he, not Santana, was the ace.

When the Twins didn't score for him, Radke kept them in games. Out of six starts after the All-Star break in which Minnesota gave him three runs or fewer, Radke threw a quality start every time. He threw eight scoreless innings against Texas' mighty offense to win a 2-0 game on Sept. 2. Five days later, he gave up a run in seven innings at Baltimore and left with a 1-0 deficit. Minnesota came back for a 3-1 victory.

Going back further, Radke took no-decisions in losses of 1-0 and 2-1 in consecutive outings in May. He received five runs of support over a four-game stretch from May into June, leaving three of those games with a 1-1 tie and the other with a 3-2 deficit.

In other words, he's pitched like an ace, even though he's pitching behind a Cy Young award favorite.

"He's given our ballclub a chance to win pretty much every time out," Gardenhire said. "He's had a couple of bad ballgames, but other than that he's pitched as good as I've seen him."

That's high praise from someone who has seen Radke for virtually his entire career.

Radke's Division Series start here last year followed the same script. He took a 1-1 tie into the seventh before giving up the first of three Yankee runs in the bottom of the seventh in a 4-1 Twins loss.

That was in prime time at Yankee Stadium. Come Wednesday night, he'll be back there again. He hinted he might have a different approach to Yankees hitters compared to his start here last week, throwing different pitches in different counts. But in the end, it'll be the same Brad Radke -- and likely the same close game he's pitched time and again.

"You know, the key to my success is just taking it easy," he said. "Try not to get too hyped about the game. Just go out there and pitch my game."

His game, this year, is low scoring.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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