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Aggressive Twins have no regrets10/08/2004 11:30 PM ET
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the rotating billboards along the Metrodome scoreboards advertises an album for "Michael Paloma and his New York Blues." The Twins didn't have to listen to the CD to relate.
Blues, they had plenty. Regrets, no.
Back in the ballpark that has given them so much of an advantage over the years, the Twins were outplayed in nearly every facet of an 8-4 loss that was a seven-run game before a ninth-inning rally. But they lost playing their brand of baseball.
They tried to take extra bases, only to be thwarted on throws. Their starting pitcher forced ground balls, only to watch them scoot through the infield on the artificial surface. They bounced singles like Superballs off the turf, only to have them end up as infield singles that didn't score runners. They played their style of game, the kind that usually drives opponents crazy but comes with a risk, and they won't apologize for it.
"In the playoffs, a lot of stuff happens," Torii Hunter said. "'You want to take easy. You want to be careful.' I don't believe in that. I think you need to take advantage. The Yankees hitting all those home runs, we've got to do what we have to do. We have to take the extra 90 feet no matter what. The play has got to be gutsy."
Actually, the Yankees homered only once, and it was one of two extra-base hits off Twins starter Carlos Silva. He won 14 games this year as a ground-ball pitcher and stuck to that plan Friday night, forcing more ground balls (seven) than fly balls (six). The problem with being a ground-ball pitcher in an artificial turf stadium is that the ground balls don't have to find just the right hole to get through.
"I threw every pitch that I wanted to throw," Silva said. "I think the only guys hitting the ball hard were [Gary] Sheffield and Bernie Williams. They got a lot of [lousy] hits."
Three of the five balls in New York's game-defining string of five consecutive singles in a three-run second inning came on ground balls that reached the outfield. The other two hits were soft, opposite-field line drives that fell for RBI singles from eighth and ninth hitters Miguel Cairo and Kenny Lofton. The Yankees sat on Silva's sinker and went with it.
"That was his ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Up to [the home run], the kid was giving up hits he normally does, and giving us a chance to win. That's pretty much his game, throwing the ball over the plate and making them hit the ball."
The home run and Derek Jeter's two-run single made it a 7-1 game entering the bottom of the sixth. The Twins had the makings of a rally with two hits, but both were erased in attempts for an extra base. Hunter tried to turn a double into three bases after Matsui booted his bouncer down the left-field line. Matsui recovered for a strong throw and a close play at third base that ended with Hunter making the first out of the inning at third base.
It's a cardinal sin in most circles of baseball, but Hunter believed so strongly in it afterwards that he'd probably try it again.
"I knew it was a double, and then I saw Matsui kick it," he said. "So I just tried to take advantage and tried to make something happen. It wasn't a bonehead play. It was an aggressive play. Anyone who says bonehead, they don't know how to play the game."
Two batters later, Koskie made the third out of the inning at second base when he tried to stretch a single to center into a double. This time, Williams came up with the big throw.
"I thought the ball was going to go a little bit farther than it did," Koskie said. "He got up and made a good throw."
It was not something he wanted to question in hindsight. "Hindsight's a bad sight in this game," Koskie said, "and you can second-guess everything you did. But at that point in the game, I went. And I was out."
There's a dichotomy of philosophies on whether to run on those plays in a 7-1 game. The first says that they need so many hits for a real rally that they should play station-to-station baseball and wait for an ensuing hit they'll need anyway to make the game close. On the other hand, it's 7-1, and they need to piece together a run wherever they can find one to build momentum. If it backfires, it's not the game-changing play.
Hunter took the latter view. As a team, the Twins usually do, too. They did it again when Michael Cuddyer took third base on Shannon Stewart's ninth-inning sacrifice fly, even though a quick throw to third from Mariano Rivera likely would have meant the end of the game.
"It was already 7-1," Hunter said of the sixth-inning plays. "That wasn't the reason we lost. I just tried to make something happen. All we need is an infield hit or a ball to second base and I score a run right there. And Koskie, that was an aggressive play. I like that. That's the way we play the game."
And that's how they'll keep playing it, even if it means more New York blues. No regrets.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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