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Guardado happy to nail it down
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League Championship Series
10/09/2002 1:43 AM ET
Guardado happy to nail it down
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins closer Eddie Guardado was amazed by how many fans were at the airport to greet him at the airport when the team returned to Minnesota after beating Oakland in the ALDS.

What came as even more of a surprise to the southpaw was when the phone rang in the Twins bullpen before the top of the ninth.

"I was a little surprised I was even going in," Guardado said. "I thought Joe [Mays] was going to go finish the game because he was throwing so damn good."

Mays had held Anaheim to an unearned run through eight innings, but with a one-run lead heading into the final inning the Twins turned to the guy they've been counting on all season -- even after he came one-run from blowing Game 5 of the ALDS in Oakland.

"This guy's meant everything to this organization," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "All the players look up to him. He went through a tough time in Oakland and scared everybody to death.

    Eddie Guardado   /   P
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 193
Bats/Throws: R/L

More info:
Mariners site

"He came up to me on the field yesterday during the workout and said, 'Don't lose faith.' I said, 'Eddie, I'd never do that.'"

And he didn't.

Gardenhire gave Mays the option to finish, but once his starter said, "I can finish it or Eddie can," the manager went to the pen without the slightest hesitation.

So Guardado strolled to the mound the hopes of a Game 1 victory for the Twins on his mind and the sound of 55,562 playoff frenzied fans chanting his name.

Back to "[Mays] had the option of going back out there for the ninth. I thought he was throwing the ball pretty good. But I'm never, never unhappy to put Eddie Guardado in the game."

Why would he be? The guy only set a single season club record with 45 saves in his first full season as a closer. However, he seemed to make every one of them interesting and Tuesday's 2-1 victory was no exception.

"He's not the kind of guy who gets 1-2-3 innings," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "I don't remember him doing that too much this season, but he got the job done versus the heart of their lineup."

Guardado fanned Darin Erstad on four pitches to start the inning, but put the tying run on base when he walked Tim Salmon. He then got Twin-killer Garret Anderson to fly out before ending the game with an eight-pitch strikeout.

After getting ahead of Anaheim's Troy Glaus 0-2, the slugger fouled off two pitches to bring the count full, but Guardado froze him with an 83 mph slider.

"That was a hell of an at-bat by Glaus," Guardado said. "He's a great hitter. I just tried to stay ahead and keep the ball down on him. [Ball three] was a 2-2 pitch that was down and I figured, 'Man I'll come back with another slider, cause I know he's looking dead red [fastball] and I threw it for a strike."

Even if he hadn't, Guardado would have approached the next hitter the same way because, like all good closers, he has the right mentality for the gig -- don't panic and have a short memory.

"He's a great closer because he doesn't let one day affect the next," Pierzynski said. "He's done it all year. He's blown saves and come back the next night and shut teams down."

"In this game, with the situation I'm in, you're gonna save some and you're gonna blow some," Guardado said. "Even in crucial games like today and the other day, I'm gonna live tomorrow. I'm still gonna wake up tomorrow."

After notching his first playoff save and nailing down the Game 1 victory, it's a good bet he'll wake up tomorrow with a great big smile.

Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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