10/05/2002 7:04 pm ET
Twins learn patience is a virtue
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Winning is always more fun, but there's a lot to be learned from losing. The Twins received a lesson in patience in their last two losses to Oakland.
In Friday's Game 3 loss, the Twins let numerous scoring opportunities slip away by chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
Game 4, however, was a different story. The Twins hitters showed incredible patience against A's starter Tim Hudson on Saturday. They forced him to throw 90 pitches over just 3 1/3 innings on their way to an 11-2 victory that forced a deciding Game 5 Sunday in Oakland.
"Good pitching can make you have some terrible at-bats," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And this pitching staff is really good with the Oakland A's. They've pitched effectively out of the zone, so we're really proud of our guys today. They never say die. Now, we have to go back out to San Francisco, and that's probably going to be the best flight we'll ever have."
After falling behind in the third on Miguel Tejada's two-run homer, the Twins' patience started to pay off. The notoriously free-swinging A.J. Pierzinski ground out a seven-pitch at-bat that resulted in a single before Luis Rivas struck out in a 10-pitch at-bat.
"Luis Rivas had one hell of an at-bat, and that set the stage," Gardenhire said. "He ended up striking out, but he fought off some tough pitches."
Following the Rivas at-bat, Hudson tried to get ahead in the count by throwing a first-pitch strike that Jacque Jones ripped down the right-field line for a ground-rule double before Cristian Guzman cut the lead in half with an RBI groundout.
Corey Koskie followed with a seven-pitch walk, and David Ortiz tied the game with another ground-rule double.
The two runs were important to the Twins, but what might have made the most impact on the game were the 33 pitches it took for Hudson to get out of the inning.
"That's what you try to do with Hudson," hitting coach Scott Ulger said. "We've faced these guys enough now to have a good idea of what they're trying to do. They want to get ahead and then make you chase pitches, so you have to take them deep in the count."
With the momentum gained from fighting back to tie the game, Minnesota followed with the second-highest scoring half-inning in ALDS history.
Doug Mientkiewicz started the rally by ripping a 2-2 pitch for a leadoff single, but the key at-bat of the inning came after rookie outfielder Michael Cuddyer struck out on three pitches.
Pierzynski battled Hudson for an eight-pitch walk that seemed to take 20 minutes and might have put the A's fielder's on their heels.
Rivas followed with a groundball to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who went to third in an attempt to get the lead runner. But he threw the ball into the Twins dugout, allowing Mientkiewicz to score the go-ahead run.
A hit batter, a throwing error, two singles and a double later, the Twins had a 9-2 lead and momentum heading into Sunday's Game 5.
"You've got to understand, we're an aggressive team," Jones said. "We'd rather hit than take a walk. But we've got to learn in late-season, playoff-type games, we're not going to get very many pitches to hit. We were a little more patient today than yesterday. It's all part of the learning experience."
If they can carry their newly learned lesson in patience into Game 5 against Mark Mulder, they just might graduate to the ALCS.
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.