10/02/2002 8:37 pm ET
Clutch hitting pulls A's even
Five-run fourth inning eases pain of Game 1 loss
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- As soon as Eric Chavez's mammoth three-run homer fell to earth some 400 feet away from home plate Wednesday, Miguel Tejada had one thought.
Tejada, with Tuesday's blown lead in Game 1 of the American League Division Series still fresh in his head, was certain the A's would need more than what Chavez gave them in the first inning to win Game 2.
"They sent us a message in Game 1, and that message was that they don't quit," Tejada explained. "Three-run lead? We had that in the first inning Tuesday, too."
As it turned out, the A's didn't need any more than what Chavez provided with his prodigious poke. Mark Mulder was masterful for six innings, Oakland's beleaguered bullpen threw three shutout innings, and a 9-1 drubbing evened the series as it heads to Minnesota for Game 3 on Friday.
But to a man, the A's agreed that the sense that they did need more was a huge help in maintaining their intensity throughout.
"I don't want to say we let up Tuesday," said outfielder Terrence Long, "but we didn't finish them off, either."
As Tejada pointed out, the A's led 3-0 after the first inning Tuesday. They led 5-1 after the second. Then the offense dried up, the pitching broke down and the Twins came back to win, 7-5. The glaring number on the stat sheet: 12, for men left on base.
Through the first few innings, Wednesday had a familiar feel.
The first inning ended when Jermaine Dye, who had doubled after Chavez's homer, ran into the third out at third base on an ugly 1-3-5 double play.
The second inning was even more aggravating. Singles by Mark Ellis and Long put runners at the corners with nobody out, but there they stayed.
And then came the third, when Long flew out to leave the bases loaded.
"It was a lot like yesterday's game early on," said Tim Hudson, who helped blow that Game 1 lead. "We scored some runs early but then kind of shut down and let them back into it."
The similarities ended in the fourth, which everyone in Oakland's clubhouse pointed to as the beginning of the end for the Twins.
With Durham on first base and two out, the A's put on the kind of offensive display that was commonplace during their record 20-game winning streak in the regular season. Tejada doubled in Durham, a pair of walks loaded the bases, and David Justice tripled everyone in. Ellis followed with a bloop RBI double, and Mulder's lead was 8-0.
"That was big. Real big," Long said. "I was still upset about leaving the bases loaded the inning before, but the thing about this team is that when one guy doesn't get it done, somebody picks you up. That's how you win 20 games in a row, and that's how we're going to have to win in the playoffs.
"Plus, any time you score runs with two outs, you take some life out of the other team."
And five runs with two outs is a death knell. Mays didn't survive the inning.
"We had him in a lot of trouble, but he wriggled off the hook," said A's manager Art Howe. "And sometimes when you do that, you never get another chance. We kept the pressure on and finally broke it open."
But the A's weren't done. Durham doubled with one out in the fifth, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Hatteberg to make it 9-0.
"It was good to see us bounce back," said Hatteberg. "We jumped out to a lead again, and as well as Mark was throwing, we could have sat back and jumped on his shoulders. But instead we kept at it, didn't get frustrated, and finally broke through. It's very satisfying."
Particularly to Tejada, who takes losses harder than most of the laid-back A's. He was frustrated by his performance Tuesday -- he went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and left five runners on base -- and felt the A's needed to respond to Minnesota's Game 1 "statement" with one of their own Wednesday.
"Tuesday was frustrating, very frustrating," Tejada said. "We quit playing and they didn't. So today we knew we had to keep playing, keep swinging the bats, keep scoring runs.
"They play too hard to let up against them, and today we played hard for nine innings. Now we're even. Now the fun begins."
Mychael Urban covers the Oakland A's for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.