10/04/2002 10:45 pm ET
MLBeat: Record crowd did its part
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins fans turned out in large numbers for the first playoff baseball game held at the Metrodome since 1991. A sellout was announced of 55,932 fans in attendance, establishing a new club record. The previous record was 55,376, set during Game 7 of the 1987 World Series against the Cardinals.
In order to accomodate the large audience, the Twins lifted the white curtain that covered the upper deck seating in the outfield's upper deck. The pictures and retired numbers that hang fron the curtain also had to come down. To honor those players, the numbers were displayed on the facade of the deck in center field.
"It's kind of neat to see the curtain raised and people sitting in those seats," Game 3 starter Rick Reed said. "It was exciting."
As expected, crowd created a deafening roar throughout the game, often making communication on the field difficult. White Homer Hankies could be seen waving everywhere in support of the Twins.
The noise, combined with the AstroTurf and the dome's white roof that makes seeing fly balls difficult, appeared to give the Twins the homefield advantage they expected. In the first inning, Jacque Jones led off with a pop fly near first base. Scott Hatteberg moved a few feet in and appeared to settle in under the ball -- only to find it landing about 20 feet behind him.
Luckily for Oakland, though the ball landed in the infield, it rolled foul after landing, and Jones went on to be struck out by A's starter Barry Zito.
In the second inning, Hatteberg was burned again on a popup. Torii Hunter hit a very high fly ball, and again, Hatteberg had a bead on it. But second baseman Mark Ellis didn't hear or see Hatteberg call for the ball and also tried to make a play. The two players collided, and the ball skipped off Ellis' glove for an error.
The Twins were not able to make Oakland pay for its mistake. They didn't score a run in the inning and left the bases loaded.
"It was a tough atmosphere out there today," said A's right fielder Jermaine Dye, who hit a homer for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. "The crowd was loud ... and the roof was as tough as it always is. ... Fortunately for us, those plays didn't hurt us."
The Twins recognize that their ballpark is a nice advantage to have, but also know they have to rely on themselves to carry the load.
"They gave us a lot of energy," Twins left fielder Jacque Jones said. "But you can have 100,000 fans in the stands, and it won't matter, because you play the game on the field."
Pressure comparison: For several of the Twins' playoff first-timers, the pressure to perform has been intense. But it hasn't been too bad for Cristian Guzman.
The Twins shortstop is a veteran of playoff baseball in his Dominican Republic. Here in the U.S., it's play well or go home. In the Dominican, it's play well -- or else.
"In the Dominican, the people are crazy," Guzman said good-naturedly. But there is nothing good-natured about what happens if you strike out or make an error.
"They throw bottles and everything," he said.
Guzman committed an error in Game 1 of the ALDS against Oakland, like several of his teammates did. He was steady with the bat through the first two games, though -- going 3-for-7 (.429) with a home run. In Game 3's 6-3 loss to Oakland on Friday, Guzman went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire senses Guzman's excitement about being in a Major League postseason for the first time. Still, the 24-year-old told him the other day that there's more pressure in the Dominican.
"I would imagine for a young player playing in front of his own people in the Dominican, that might be right," Gardenhire said.
"I don't feel pressure playing here," Guzman said. "In the Dominican, I feel pressure when they throw the bottles."
Prepare for anything: When Twins players arrived at the Metrodome Friday morning before Game 3, they received letters about being prepared to travel again after Game 4.
The Twins must win Saturday's game, or they are eliminated from the postseason. If they win Game 4 and a deciding fifth game is needed, the Twins will fly immediately to Oakland for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon. If they win the ALDS, they will play either the Yankees or Angels in the next round. If Minnesota gets the Yankees, they'll have to fly to New York for Games 1 and 2 of ALCS. If the Angels advance, the Twins come home to start the ALCS -- got all of that?
With the uncertainty of postseason baseball in mind, Gardenhire is not allowing starting pitchers Joe Mays or Rick Reed prepare for their next starts with side bullpen sessions. Only Brad Radke threw a session Thursday to get ready for Game 5, if necessary.
"If we end up getting to Sunday, [this way] everybody is available, rather than throwing side work," Gardenhire said. "There's no sense in that. We'll see what happens, and then we'll make adjustments. We want everybody to be available."
Hey TK: Former Twins manager Tom Kelly threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3. Kelly, who managed from 1986-2001, led Minnesota to two World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. He received a boisterous standing ovation from a sold-out Metrodome crowd of about 55,000.
During batting practice, Kelly was on the field to say hello and was greeted by some of his former players, including A.J. Pierzynski and Denny Hocking. Kelly said that he doesn't feel he's missing out after stepping down as manager.
"I miss the camaraderie of the game, the competition of the game," Kelly said. "But other than that -- that's all I miss."
Kelly, now a special assistant to general manager Terry Ryan, has been doing advance scouting on the Yankees for
the last few weeks. He has been providing reports to Gardenhire and his staff.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This report was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.