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Home not so sweet for Twins
10/08/2004 11:00 PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Heading into the playoffs, the Twins vowed they were a different team, and one that was better built to go farther in the playoffs than the past two years.

But after Minnesota's 8-4 loss to the Yankees in Game 3 Friday put them down, 2-1, in the best-of-five American League Division Series, this team is dangerously close to a familiar scenario.

Elimination by the Yankees. A short October. A longer offseason.

Game 4 is set for Saturday afternoon, again at the Metrodome. If the Twins win, a deciding Game 5 is scheduled in New York. If they lose, the season is over.

"We're going to come here with our bags packed and see what happens," Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart said.

"This group has been fighting for five years," said right fielder Jacque Jones, whose first-inning home run off Kevin Brown put the Twins ahead, 1-0. "Backs against the wall, faced contraction, all that good stuff. Everybody knows the story. We always find a way to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. Our goal this year is to go to the World Series. To go to the World Series, you have to beat the best team, which is this team here."

Jones' blast was one of few balls hit hard off Brown, who allowed just one run over six innings. All but one of the Twins' remaining seven hits off the sinkerball-throwing right-hander were singles.

Meanwhile, Twins starter Carlos Silva was on the hook for six runs and 10 hits over five innings. In a pivotal second inning, Silva routinely retired the first two batters in the top of second inning, but found the third out to be elusive when New York collected five straight singles for three runs.

Jorge Posada hit a liner to center field that was followed by a roller through the left side by John Olerud. Ticky-tack hits by Miguel Cairo, Kenny Lofton and Derek Jeter all scored runs.

"I was mad because I didn't help my team," said Silva, whose opponents batted .373 against him with two outs in the regular season. "They gave me an opportunity to be the third starter and I didn't do the job. I feel bad about that."

A four-run sixth inning, which included Bernie Williams' two-run homer off Silva and Jeter's two-run single off Jesse Crain, helped put the game out of reach for Minnesota.

"They came out and they knocked the (stuff) out of the ball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They feathered the ball down the right-field line and the left-field line, and they kind of played a little bit of our game."

In the bottom of the sixth, overaggressive baserunning took the Twins out of an inning. Torii Hunter chopped a hit over Alex Rodriguez at third for a double. When Hideki Matsui booted the ball in left field, Hunter tried to stretch for a triple. Matsui recovered the ball quickly and gunned Hunter down with a good throw.

Two batters later, Corey Koskie attempted to stretch a liner hit to center field into a double, but was thrown out at second base on a perfect throw by Williams.

In what was perhaps a fitting symbol for their night, a would-be spectacular catch by Hunter became a home run by Matsui. On a deep drive to left-center field, Hunter gloved the ball but lost control of it when he slammed hard into the fence. The ball trickled over the wall for a two-run homer off Terry Mulholland.

Facts machine
The Twins are 0-5 in Game 3's of a five-game series. They are 2-5 at the Metrodome in their last seven postseason games since 2002.

Hunter was down for a few moments and examined by the trainer. He remained in the game.

"It knocked the wind out of me," said Hunter, who was 1-for-4 at the plate. "My neck was hurting. My back was hurting. I just tried to collect myself. There was no way I was coming out of that game. I'm not going to give you a homer. I'm not going to give you a hit even when it's 7-1. I can't do that. I'm selfish."

In the bottom of the ninth, the Twins attempted a comeback and loaded the bases with no outs. Reliever Felix Heredia hit two batters and against Tanyon Sturtze, Cristian Guzman reached on his third infield hit of the game. Michael Cuddyer's single drove in a run and forced the Yankees to bring Mariano Rivera into a non-save situation. Rivera allowed a sacrifice fly but secured New York's win.

"They brought their closer in when we were down by six runs. I was kind of flattered by that," Jones said. "They know what type of team we have. We're never going to quit. We'll always come after you."

That's exactly what must happen Saturday for the Twins to stay alive. In Game 4, they have left-hander and Game 1 winner Johan Santana starting on three days' rest for the first time this season. The Yankees are starting Javier Vazquez.

"We've got Johan going. I like our chances," Hunter said. "We're going to go out and play the game. May the best team win."

Since 1998, 14 Division Series have been locked at 1-1. The team that won Game 3 won 11 times. Last year when they played the Yankees in the ALDS, the Twins earned a split in New York before dropping two in a row at the Metrodome to be eliminated.

But in the 2002 ALDS, Minnesota was down 2-1 against Oakland after dropping Game 3. The club rallied back to take Games 4 and 5 and advanced to the ALCS. Time to repeat one history and avoid another.

"We have nothing to lose," Stewart said. "Anything can happen. Hopefully we tie it up and go back to New York. That would be a lot of fun."

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


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