10/05/2002 8:16 pm ET
Twins' hopes rest on Radke
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is what playoff baseball is all about. Nine innings -- winner moves on, loser goes home.
The Twins forced a deciding Game 5 in Oakland Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome with an 11-2 trouncing highlighted by a stellar outing from left-hander Eric Milton and a seven-run fourth inning.
Now, the hopes of an entire state that fought so hard to keep their baseball team fall squarely on the shoulders of one man: Twins No. 1 starter Brad Radke.
"We came through with a split today," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "One team is going to win, and one is going to lose. It all comes down to tomorrow. I think Brad is going to go out there and hit his spots and have a great game."
Although nothing can prepare a pitcher for a winner-take-all playoff game, carrying the Twins is nothing new for the right-hander.
Since joining the Twins in 1995, Radke has been the Twins most -- if not only -- consistent starter, and his teammates have the utmost confidence that he can carry them through to the ALCS by earning his second victory of the series.
"It will definitely be bigger than Game 1," Radke said.
Of course, Radke knows this will be the franchise's most important game since Jack Morris threw a 10-inning shutout to win Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. But he's not planning on treating it differently than any other start.
"It's going to be, you know, live-or-die," Radke said. "It's going to be a deciding game, of course, but I can't let that get in my head. I just have to go out there and take the same approach as I did in Game 1."
That's the same way Radke approaches every game, and seemingly the rest of his life -- seriously.
The guy never gets too high or too low. He seldom lets his emotions get the better of him, although he was seen throwing his glove against the dugout wall in Game 1, after the Twins bungled four plays over two innings before making a remarkable comeback.
"I just go out there, mentally, thinking, you know, it's just like a regular-season start," he said. "That's what I did during Game 1, and I like that approach. I think it worked, and I know we are going to play a better game tomorrow than we did during Game 1, that's for sure."
There is little doubt about that, but Game 1 isn't the one they need to surpass. They need to play better than they did in Game 2, when they were held to a single run by Oakland's Game 5 starter Mark Mulder.
"Mulder's a bulldog," Hunter said. "But he's coming off three days, and Radke's coming off five. I think that's the way Brad likes it."
Mulder, however, isn't buying that theory.
"I don't have a problem with it," Mulder said. "I don't know how Huddy felt today, but by the time tomorrow rolls around, and, you know, with the adrenaline that gets going for the playoffs, it's not going to make a bit of difference whether that's two days or three days or four days. If you can't get up and feel good for a game like this, then there is something wrong."
Whether or not the time between starts proves to be a difference-maker remains to be seen, but Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski summed it up like this: "We've got the guy we want going out there, and they've got the guy they want going out there. It's gonna be a great game."
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.