10/01/2002 10:05 pm ET
Game 1 win all Twins needed
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
The Twins will go into Game 2 riding high after overcoming a four-run deficit to beat the A's, 7-5, in the Division Series opener at Network Associates Coliseum.
The win was a big one for the Twins, who now are guaranteed of playing two games at the Metrodome, where they have the best home record in the AL. It also gives them a one-game cushion entering back-to-back games against two of the best left-handers in baseball in Mark Mulder (19-7, 3.47) and Barry Zito (23-5 2.75). Minnesota hit only .252 versus southpaws, compared to a league-best .282 against right-handers. Getting a win against A's ace Tim Hudson ensures that the A's left-handed duo can't close out the series.
Another advantage in winning Game 1, beside the obvious one of leading the series, is that it means they will face Hudson in Game 4 on Saturday on just three days rest. A's manager Art Howe, whose club lost five-game series to the Yankees in the first round the last two seasons while employing a four-man rotation, has said he is going with a three-man rotation in this time. It remains to be seen how effective Hudson and Mulder, who would throw in a deciding Game 5 on Sunday, will be on three days rest.
The young and inexperienced Twins also were able to conquer the postseason jitters, which were pretty obvious in Game 1. They made three errors in the first two innings, giving the A's an early 5-1 lead -- don't expect to see the same kind of miscues from the AL's best defensive team in Game 2. And the Twins proved to everyone -- most importantly, themselves -- that they belong in the postseason with their play through the final seven innings.
As for the A's, they started the series exactly how they wanted to by jumping out to a big lead. But playoff games have historically been won and lost in the late innings and a poor outing from their bullpen coupled with a lights-out effort from the Twins has to have them concerned.
Many believed the A's bullpen was suspect and that certainly proved the case in Game 1. They will have to get better starts from Mulder and Zito in order to turn the series around. The home-field advantage is gone, and only wins over Twins right-handers Joe Mays (4-8, 5.38) and Rick Reed (15-7, 3.78) in Games 2 and 3 can get it back.
But for now, the momentum lies with the upstart Twins, who simply refuse to quit. Prior to Game 1, A's third baseman Eric Chavez said the Twins reminded him of his own squad as it entered the playoffs two years ago. The A's are the veterans in this series, and in order to win it they'll have to reprise the role as well as the Yankees did in overcoming early deficits and dispatching them the past two seasons.
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.