10/06/2002 10:07 pm ET
Radke deals Twins a big win
By Kent Schacht / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- If Brad Radke ever invites you to play cards, be forewarned -- he is the ultimate bluffer.
He fools everyone -- critics, oddsmakers and especially opposing hitters. And he does it all without changing the expression on his face.
The Twins ace -- and despite his 9-5 record and lack of velocity, don't think for a minute that he's not the team's ace -- did on Sunday what he's been doing for the last eight seasons. He quietly silenced the A's in workmanlike fashion, limiting Oakland to one run in 6 2/3, helping Minnesota win its biggest game since 1991.
Radke, who limited the A's to six hits, only let one Oakland baserunner past first in Minnesota's 5-4 clincher. His performance moved his record to 2-0 in the series, as he did twice in a week what other aces -- a list that includes Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Oakland's Mark Mulder -- failed to do even once in the 2002 playoffs.
After Sunday's game in a champagne-soaked clubhouse, Radke's face was just as it would you would expect it to be -- if he was dealing you a hand of seven-card stud. He was his typical calm, cool and collected, but he admitted that even though his face didn't show it, he was on an emotional roller-coaster.
"I was a little emotional, a little composed, nervous -- the whole works," said Radke. "But I just wanted to go out there and pitch my game, and that's what happened."
His analysis of what was working? Short and to the point: "I had a good changeup today, I kept it down in the zone."
Nothing close to flashy, but he got the job done. Radke's effort was the key to the game, according to A's manager Art Howe.
"Radke -- he was the X-factor," Howe said. "Mark [Mulder] was great, Radke was a little better."
"Brad Radke was awesome," said Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis. "He located the ball really well and never threw anything right over the plate."
First-year Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said having Radke on the mound for his club's biggest win since 1991 was fitting.
"We don't have the guy like a Randy Johnson, the [Curt] Schillings, guys like that. We feel very comfortable no matter who we have on the mound," said Gardenhire. "Radke has been the guy -- he's been the guy for us forever. When you open the season, Radke's the guy on the mound. You always want him in the big games."
They don't get any bigger than Sunday's, something that wasn't lost on Radke's teammates.
"He stayed quiet -- everyone talked about Hudson, Mulder, Zito -- nobody talked about Radke," said first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. "He's the quiet assassin."
"He's our ace," added Torii Hunter. "He doesn't throw hard. He goes out there and hits his spots, and that's what he has to do."
Radke, who signed a four-year contract extension with the Twins in 2000, showed patience in the Twins organization similar to the way he pitches. The bargaining that preceded the deal didn't grab headlines. But it took courage for a player that could have commanded big money on the open market to put his faith in an organization that had struggled for his entire career.
"It was kind of a hope that one of these years were going to do something special," said Radke. "I felt a couple of years ago that the talent that they were bringing in was going to be good for us."
The wait paid off, and even if he wasn't bursting with joy after Game 5, his teammates and skipper said they'd see him smile sometime -- even if they had to force it out of him.
Gardenhire, when asked what it would take to see an expression from his ace, said it would come sooner or later, but maybe not for the whole world to enjoy.
"I'll get one on the airplane tonight -- I guarantee it," he said.
Kent Schacht is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.