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Twins turn to Milton in hour of need
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Division Series
10/04/2002 11:38 pm ET 
Twins turn to Milton in hour of need
By Mark Sheldon /

Eric Milton will start in Game 4 on Saturday, as the Twins fight to stave off elimination. (Tom Olmscheid/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- It will be up to tough left-hander Eric Milton Saturday to help the Twins fight their way out of the corner they're in.

Milton is the starting pitcher in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the A's and their starter, Tim Hudson. Oakland leads the best-of-five series, 2-1, and can eliminate Minnesota with another victory.

"Tomorrow will definitely be the biggest game of my career, no doubt," said Milton, who was 13-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 29 regular season starts.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski said there's no one he'd rather see on the mound in this situation.

"You know he's going to give you his best, or he's going to die trying," Pierzynski said. "He's a warrior."

Milton has had the benefit of watching the A's in the series' first three games. He watched Joe Mays allow six runs in Wednesday's loss and Rick Reed give up four home runs in Saturday's defeat.

"I want to come out firing strikes right off the bat and keep the ball down in the zone," Milton said. "Because, if you get the ball up and make mistakes, these are great hitters and they are going to capitalize. "

In his one regular season start vs. Oakland this season, Milton pitched four innings and allowed three runs, including two home runs, in a 6-0 loss.

An All-Star last season, Milton has seen numerous peaks and valleys during the 2002 campaign. Before the All-Star break, his ERA was over 5.00, and he was often torched for big innings by the opposition. He openly questioned his confidence and ability.

Milton finally solved his troubles and went 4-1 in six starts from July 5-Aug. 1. But his improvement was derailed on Aug. 6 while warming up for a start at Baltimore. He felt a pop in his left knee while throwing and learned he had torn the meniscus.

The injury required surgery, and Milton was on the disabled list for a month.

"I am kind of glad it happened when it did and not later in the season," Milton said. "So I had time to come back in September and get a few starts under my belt and get back on track."

Back to He was 0-2 with a 6.64 ERA in his first five starts after returning, but he finished strong, allowing just one run over two starts in a combined 11 2/3 innings.

Although the knee isn't 100 percent, Milton said it should be okay.

"My last two starts, I have been feeling really good, and I have been able to figure some stuff out mechanically to get me back on track," Milton said. "So my last two starts have been good, and I am very confident right now."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also believes that Milton is ready.

"I wanted him to have the ball," Gardenhire said. "He has worked very hard to get that ball, and I have a lot of confidence in him."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for and can be reached at This report was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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