10/09/2002 00:46 am ET
Koskie connects for game-winner
Twins third baseman isn't all about the personal stats
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Corey Koskie isn't the chest-thumping type. He's as likely to toot his own horn as Deion Sanders is to not. He's Grind Time, not Prime Time, and he's been that way since starring in juniors hockey up in his native Manitoba, Canada.
But on Tuesday night he played a starring role in Minnesota's 2-1 victory over the Angels in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, and you'll have to excuse him if he quietly savors this one for a while.
He's reluctant to admit it, but it's been a long year.
"It's nice to come through for the team, not because of anything I've been though," said Koskie, who went 2-for-4 and drove home the game-winning run with a fifth-inning double. "We were able to win. That's what's satisfying to me."
Koskie, who was signed out of Canada's National Baseball Institute in 1994, broke into the big leagues with the Twins in 1998 and became a full-timer a year later, hitting .310 in 117 games. He followed that by hitting .300 over 146 games in 2000, but it wasn't until last season that he turned into the power-hitting third baseman most teams drool over.
With 26 homers, 103 RBIs and a .488 slugging percentage -- all career highs -- he immediately proved himself worthy of the three-year deal Minnesota gave him that spring. And that he won the club's Carl A. Pohlad Award for community service only endeared him further to the fans.
"They love him here," said Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. "And rightfully so."
Everything was in place for Koskie, 29, to -- in the words of teammate Torii Hunter -- "blow up" in 2002. To join the Anaheim's Troy Glaus and Oakland's Eric Chavez among the ranks of AL hot-corner stars. To maybe make the All-Star team. Maybe win a Gold Glove.
Then the season started, and the harsh reality of health -- in Koskie's case, lack of it -- sent the best-laid plans awry.
There was a wrist problem in Spring Training. There was a hamstring problem and a stint on the disabled list in May. Then, in August, came the play that did what few have done: drop the Metrodome into dead silence.
With the winning run on third base in a game against Kansas City, Koskie grounded to first base. The hurried throw home hit him in the chest from 20 feet away, sending him to the hospital.
"That was scary, man," said David Ortiz. "He's been through a lot."
The assorted ailments contributed to a drop in production for Koskie, who finished with 15 homers and 69 RBIs while hitting .267 over 140 games during the regular season. But his teammates never doubted that he'd come around, even after he went 3-for-21 (.143) in the AL Division Series against Oakland.
"I wouldn't say he struggled in the division series at all," Mientkiewicz said. "He hit some balls well and had some really good at-bats where he either hit the ball at someone of someone made a good play. It's easy to hit .100 in a short series."
"He's been very clutch for us ever since he got here," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
And he was clutch again Tuesday. With the score tied and runners at first and second with one out in the fifth, he pulled a 2-2 pitch from Angels starter Kevin Appier just inside the right-field line for a go-ahead double.
"We wanted to go down and away on that pitch," Appier explained. "We got it down but it caught too much of the plate. It almost got under his bat, but he did a good job of getting to that ball and keeping it in play."
Typical Koskie, according to Mientkiewicz: "He's one of the most underrated clutch hitters in the game. There's nobody I'd rather have up there."
"He's one of our best hitters," added Ortiz. "When he's swinging the bat good, we're usually playing good."
And as long as the Twins are playing well, Koskie, who went 2-for-4 on Tuesday, could care less what his numbers say.
"At this point you just eliminate personal statistics and focus on wins and losses," said Koskie, a big bag of ice wrapped around a sore left ankle. "I'll take an 0-for-14 if it takes us to the next level."
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.