10/02/2002 10:01 pm ET
Mulder stops Twins' momentum
Oakland heads to Metrodome with series even at 1-1
By Kent Schacht / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Straight out of central casting, A's ace lefty Mark Mulder has the good looks and confident swagger of a leading man.
Wednesday, he performed perfectly in that role for the A's -- a role his teammates, manager Art Howe and the 31,953 on hand at Network Associates Coliseum desperately needed him to play after Tuesday's tough Game 1 loss.
He was the ultimate stopper in Oakland's 9-1 win -- snuffing out any Minnesota attempt at a comeback after the A's jumped out to a lead.
Although he threw blanks in five of the six frames he pitched, the zeros he put up in the top of the third and fourth may have been the most important.
It was beginning to look a little bit like déjà vu for the A's early on. One day after jumping to an early lead against the Twins, the A's did it again on a three-run homer in the first by Eric Chavez. In Game 1, Minnesota answered every time the A's put up a run, stopping the A's momentum and keeping the game within reach.
It looked like more of the same early in Game 2. Oakland had a chance to add to its lead in the second off Twins starter Joe Mays, putting runners at first and third with nobody out. But just like they did too often Tuesday, the A's could not convert. Ramon Hernandez struck out, Ray Durham popped out to short left field and Scott Hatteberg grounded into a fielder's choice at short -- a deflating way to end an inning.
But unlike Tuesday's Game 1, when the Twins followed a shutdown A's frame with runs to snatch the momentum, Mulder wasn't about to let that happen Wednesday.
After allowing Luis Rivas to lead off the third with a single to left, Mulder went to work on the top of the Twins lineup. He struck out Jacque Jones looking, induced a fielder's choice out of Cristian Guzman and got clean-up hitter Corey Koskie to fly out to center.
Tim Hudson, who had trouble in similar situations Tuesday, said it was a big moment for his fellow starter.
"After Mays pitched out of that jam, it could have been a big momentum swing," said Tim Hudson. "But he shut them down. That's what they expect out of us, and Mulder went out and did it today."
Center fielder Terrence Long called Mulder's second inning the key moment of the game.
"The biggest thing about that inning is that Mark went out and shut them down after it," said Long. "We didn't do our job, but he picked us up. That was the game, right there. That gave us our confidence back."
In the bottom of the third, the A's showed that confidence by loading the bases with three singles, but again could not convert that opportunity into any runs.
Just like in the top of the third, the Twins got a man aboard to lead off the fourth. And just like he did an inning earlier, Mulder again shut the momentum down, retiring three in a row after Matthew LeCroy's single to start the inning.
The A's finally blew it open in the bottom half of the fourth, scoring five runs, three of them coming on a David Justice RBI triple. With an 8-0 lead, Mulder cruised. He finished having allowed only one Minnesota run -- a solo home run to Guzman in the sixth -- on five hits before exiting with a 9-1 lead prior to the seventh.
"I think when we score runs like that, I've got to try and do my best to put up a zero in the next inning," said Mulder, who will be ready to go for a possible Game 5 back here on Sunday after throwing only 90 pitches. "It's very important. You can't let them think they can get back in the game."
Also very important was winning this game for the A's. Despite the fact that they put on a fearless face after yesterday's loss, going to the Metrodome down 0-2 would have been a different story.
"Being down one, we needed to win today. It was a very big game," admitted Mulder. "Now we have put ourselves in a position where we have Barry [Zito] going in Game 3, which is probably the most important game right now.
"When you have your best pitcher going in Game 3, like we do, we have a good chance now."
Kent Schacht is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.