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Early blows set tone for A's win
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Division Series
10/04/2002 11:04 pm ET 
Early blows set tone for A's win
By Todd Lorenz /

Ray Durham's liner ran under Torii Hunter's glove in the first, setting the tempo for the A's. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Rick Reed led the American League with just 1.2 walks per nine innings this season, so he knows about throwing strikes. However, it was the A's who struck first in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at the Metrodome.

On the third pitch of the game, Oakland leadoff hitter Ray Durham smashed a line drive at Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter. Hunter made a break on the ball, but as it came closer, he realized it was sinking too fast.

"As soon as it was hit, I made up my mind to go for it," Hunter said. "The ball had a lot of sink on it, and it dropped at the last second."

By the time he got close to the ball, it was too late. The ball ran under his glove, and Durham ran around the bases for a leadoff, inside-the-park home run.

"It could have changed the momentum entirely," Hunter admitted, "but I'm an aggressive player, and I'm going to try to catch everything. I was aggressive, and I hurt myself."

While it certainly wasn't how the Twins would have liked to start their first home playoff game in 11 seasons, his teammates still kept a positive outlook on Hunter's miscue.

"It could have been worse," Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Torii could have pulled a hamstring. You have to understand that Torii is human, but he's still the best center fielder in baseball. He was being aggressive, and that's the way he's played his whole life. We didn't lose that game because Torii didn't make that play."

Back to It was the first-ever inside-the-park home run in the ALDS, the first inside-the-park home run to lead off a postseason game, and the third leadoff home run in Oakland playoff history.

"At first I was hoping [Hunter] wouldn't catch it, but I was surprised it got by him, and once it did, I knew it was gonna be a race," said A's first baseman Scott Hatteberg, who watched the whole thing from the on-deck circle. "Not much gets by him out there. Ray's homer really set the tempo for us. But if he'd hit it out, he could have walked instead of having to run all that way."

Even if Hunter had gotten in front of the ball, chances are that Durham could have walked home, because two pitches later Hatteberg blasted a 393-foot home run over the baggie in right field to stake the A's to a two-run lead en route to a 6-3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

"We knew that, if we could score early and often, it would take the crowd out of the game," Durham said.

For a while, it did. Reed gave up another solo blast in the fourth, this time to Terrance Long, to further silence the record crowd of 55,932. But they came to life again in the fifth inning, when the Twins tied things at 3-3 on Hunter's RBI single.

"Reed's been around, and he knows how to handle himself," Hunter said. "He knows that if he's down, guys are going to try to get those runs back -- and we did. We got it to 3-3, and when you tie the game up, it's zero-zero again, and you've got new life."

However, that life was short-lived, because Reed allowed a playoff-record-tying fourth home run to Jermaine Dye to lead off the fifth inning.

"They just came out swinging the bats, and they hit the ball hard," Reed said. "After the first two, I was sort of settled in. But those first two guys, they put the attack on and made us pay."

Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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