Twins down after loss, but are they out?
Minnesota lost a lot in dropping Game 1 of ALDS to Athletics
MINNEAPOLIS -- That whoosh you might have heard Tuesday afternoon was the collective sigh of some 55,000 Minnesota fans after Oakland's Barry Zito and Frank Thomas let the air out of the Big Baggy.
Minnesota's 3-2 loss to the A's in the opener of the American League Division Series at the Metrodome may be only one loss in this best-of-five series, but what a devastating defeat it was for the Cinderella Twins' postseason hopes.
The Twins' euphoria from having won the AL Central title on the final day of the season has been quickly replaced by the cold reality of their current predicament.
Thanks to Zito's eight masterful innings and Thomas' two home runs the Twins:
-- Are in an hole following a start from Johan Santana, the best pitcher in the Major Leagues and one who hadn't experienced defeat in this ballpark since 2005.
-- Have lost the home-field advantage.
-- Suffered their first Game 1 loss since losing the opener of the 1969 American League Championship Series at Baltimore.
-- Must now turn to a rookie, Boof Bonser, to keep from falling into an even deeper crevasse before heading to Oakland for Game 3.
You have to wonder whether the Twins can come back in this series after losing at home with their ace on the mound. If they can't win here with Santana, can they logically expect to win three of the next four games, especially with the series moving west following Wednesday's game?
"We've been through so many adversities this year, nothing can get us down," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "We've been dealing with adversity and battling back all year, by no means are we down. We don't expect to lose when [Santana] is on the mound, but he's human and we're a human ballclub."
Against Zito, the Piranhas didn't have much of a bite and the heart of the Minnesota order -- Joe Mauer, Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter -- were a combined 1-for-15, with the lone hit a ceiling-aided triple by Cuddyer in the ninth. The Twins were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Twins preferred to credit Zito with a great effort rather than read anything momentum changing into Tuesday's outcome. To them it was just one loss, not the end of the series.
And one that suddenly looks quite vulnerable. Disappointed? Absolutely. Done? No way.
"This team is pretty resilient," Mauer said. "We've come from behind before. We're not going to quit until it's all over."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire agreed that his team is a resilient bunch.
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"We will come out fighting tomorrow and see what happens," Gardenhire said. "The disappointing thing is Johan gave us exactly what we thought he would. He went out and shut them down offensively. We didn't do a lot to them."
Many observers felt the Twins' best path to the ALCS would be to get two wins from Santana and a third from Brad Radke or perhaps Bonser or Carlos Silva. The Twins, with the best home record in baseball, figured to hold serve at the Metrodome. Now that can only happen if the series goes the distance and that can't happen unless the Twins win two of the next three games.
The A's took on the Twins' best and didn't flinch. Never even trailed.
They won't see Santana again unless this series goes the distance. Right now that looks like a long shot, although the Twins certainly aren't conceding anything.
"Any loss in the playoffs is not deflating, but it hurts," Hunter said. "We'll get back out there tomorrow and this one will be behind us. We don't dwell on losses, we just get after it the next day and that's what we'll do."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.