10/12/2002 01:02 am ET
Jones' breakthrough big for Twins
Leadoff man's slump ends with game-tying double
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It got a little lost in all the excitement that followed, but Jacque Jones had his most significant moment of the postseason in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and it provided the Twins a glimmer of hope.
Thanks to Troy Glaus' eighth-inning homer, the Angels won 2-1 on Friday to go up 2-1 in the series, and they've got the next two games at home. But thanks to the return of Jones as an offensive weapon, the Twins are feeling a little bit better about their chances of sending the series back to Minneapolis.
"Jacque's a big part of what we do," said Eric Milton, who got a big bag of jack squat for his six brilliant innings Friday. "When he's going good, we're feeling good."
Jones, who hit an even .300 during the regular season, entered the game with some serious baggage. He was 0-for-9 in the series and hitless in 15 at-bats, dating back to Game 4 of the AL Division Series against Oakland. His .455 clip (5-for-11) to open the postseason had plummeted to .172, and the generally forgiving Minnesota media was in a New York state of mind.
Entire articles were devoted to the sudden slump, and the national media piled on. Jones, a fairly sensitive soul whose moods run the gamut from gregarious to sullen, went on the defensive by reciting his regular-season numbers.
"I hit 27 home runs with 85 RBIs," he said Thursday, when the criticism peaked. "I scored 96 runs. ... I hit .300. ... I'm a good hitter."
And Anaheim's starter on Friday, lefty Jarrod Washburn, is a good pitcher. That's why Jones was encouraged by his first-inning lineout to right field. And why, despite being 1-for-10 on the year against Washburn when he stepped into the batter's box in the seventh inning, he wasn't exactly worrying about the 0-for-3 on the night that he took with him.
"I had some good at-bats in Minnesota, and I had a good at-bat in the first inning," Jones explained. "And really, I try to take it one at-bat at a time, anyway -- from one to the next."
This was a particularly big one. With Dustan Mohr on first base and two out, the Twins trailed, 1-0, and the nasty 1-2 punch of Frankie Rodriguez and Troy Percival was getting loose in the Angels bullpen. Adding to the drama was the Edison Field crowd of 44,234 putting the laid-back Southern California stereotype to shame.
Jones took strike one, looked at ball one, and then pounded Washburn's next pitch high to left field.
"I thought he hit it out," said Mohr, who was running all the way. "Jacque's got tremendous power to the opposite field."
It seemed as though Jones thought it was out, too. He flipped the bat with flourish and admired the handiwork before digging out of the box.
"I did," Jones admitted. "I thought I hit it hard enough. I thought I hit it high enough. But it started sinking at the end."
It didn't sink enough for Angels left fielder Garret Anderson to get a glove on it, and when it banged off the wall, Mohr came around with the tying run.
"That was big on Jacque's part," Milton said. "I mean, to be hitless in 17 [or] 18 at-bats and do that against a tough lefty? That's impressive, and he's been doing it all year. That's why he's in the lineup, and that's why the manager has confidence in him."
Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, who watched Washburn shut down every other hitter in the Minnesota lineup, suggested that Jones' hit might have a carryover effect.
"He got the big hit when they were few and far between," Hunter said. "That was big. Now we have to get some of the other guys going."
Added Mohr, a call-'em-as-he-sees-'em sort: "Jacque's been trying too hard. He's been putting a lot of pressure on himself. Hopefully, this will get him back going in a positive direction."
As far as Jones is concerned, he's been heading in the right direction all along, numbers be damned.
"I don't know about getting going," he said. "I've been hitting some balls hard, and one finally dropped. That's baseball -- highs and lows. And whatever happens, happens.
"As long as I know how I feel and I know what kind of at-bats I'm having, I don't care about what anybody thinks."
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.