10/05/2002 6:04 pm ET
Oakland offers no excuses
Players take the blame for meltdown in Minnesota
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Too bad the A's were not as sharp with their execution as they were with their self-critiques following their 11-2 loss to Minnesota in Game 4 of their American League Division Series Saturday at the Metrodome, because maybe then they'd be going home to get ready for the ALCS instead of Game 5 of the ALDS.
"We gave [the game] to them," Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said. "We played really bad. They're a good team, but we really played bad and just handed it to them."
Teammate Scott Hatteberg couldn't recall a worse recent outing by the A's, who committed two errors and were uncharacteristically sloppy both offensively and defensively. Starter Tim Hudson lasted only 3 1/3 innings, but the right-hander didn't get a lot of help from his teammates.
"We gave them three, four, five outs (in the fourth inning) and you can't afford to do them against that team," Hatteberg said. "I'm as guilty as anyone, I screwed up. We just didn't play well at all."
Hudson, pitching on three days rest, said fatigue was not a factor. He threw 90 pitches, including 60 for strikes. The A's refused to use the early start time (noon) as a reason for their lethargy, which seemed to affect just about everyone, even MVP candidate Miguel Tejada.
Tejada contributed a two-run homer to give the A's the lead in the third, but his throwing error during Minnesota's seven-run fourth helped blow the game open. An earlier throwing blunder cost the A's an apparent double play.
"I really don't have any excuses," Tejada said. "I made that play lots of times this year. Today I just lost (the grip on) the ball. It was my fault."
Of course there could be another, less tangible reason for Oakland's nosedive. The A's have shown a propensity to stumble at postseason crunch time, dropping all five of their opporunities to clinch a series over the past three seasons. They head back to Oakland to play their third Game 5 in three years on Sunday and there isn't an A's fan on the planet or an A's player on the roster who doesn't know the team's recent postseason history.
The A's, however, say history had nothing to do with Saturday's debacle and that it won't be a factor on Sunday at Network Associates Coliseum.
"Whole different team, whole different year," Chavez said. "Those are just numbers on paper, it doesn't have anything to do with today, and it won't have anything to do with tomorrow. We just played terrible today, that's all.
"(Mark) Mulder is going for us tomorrow and everything points to Mark being the right guy for this game. I just hope he's got one big game left in him. Our starting pitching has been a strength for us, if those guys don't carry us we're not going to go very far."
Hudson said the A's were simply outplayed.
"We're a better club than we showed, but you have to give them credit, they put the bat on the ball and took advantage of miscues. That's what they do," he said. "I think we're a more mature team than we were in the past. We know what we've been through the last few years, and we know how hard it is to get back to the playoffs.
"I think we'll come out tomorrow and play better than we did today."
They will need to play a lot better or else their season will end.
"Maybe this was a wake-up call," Hatteberg said. "They haven't won anything yet and we haven't won anything yet. You've got two evenly matched teams and it's all coming down to one game."
One game. In a scenario that has been a notorious stage for this A's the last couple of years.
"It seems like we've needed to win one game all year," Tejada said. "We can do it. It's one game, and we need to go and get it."
While they can.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was not sujbect to approval by Major League Baseball.