A's look to buck trend against Twins
Oakland eyes ALDS clinch; Minnesota turns to Radke
OAKLAND -- The Oakland A's are on the verge, but of what we won't know until Game 3 of their American League Division Series against Minnesota is history.
Are the A's on the verge of winning an ALDS clinching game after coming up short nine consecutive times?
Or will they make it 0-for-10 and counting?
When they take the field Friday afternoon against the Twins in the best-of-five ALDS, the A's won't be thinking about history. The present will be all that matters.
"We have to focus on the game, we have to keep our mind on [Minnesota starter] Brad Radke," A's slugger Frank Thomas said. "The rest of that [history] doesn't matter now. We have to do the job against Radke. That's all we need to think about."
Radke will take on Oakland right-hander Dan Haren in a 1:09 p.m. PT game at McAfee Coliseum.
Radke is pitching with a stress fracture in his right shoulder that keeps him in near constant pain. This could be the gutsy veteran's final game, and the A's know they will get his best.
"We all know what he's going through, and you have to admire him," Thomas said. "I've faced him many times, and I know how tough he can be. It's not going to be easy. With Radke, you have to be patient and make the most of every at-bat because he doesn't give you much."
Haren has a chance to do something no A's starter has accomplished since 1990: win a postseason clinching game. The last Oakland pitcher to win a postseason clincher was Dave Stewart, who beat Roger Clemens and Boston, 3-1, on Oct. 10, 1990, at the Coliseum, giving the A's a four-game sweep in the American League Championship Series.
As any A's fan can tell you, getting that clinching win has been an October nightmare for this franchise in recent years. Twice in the last five years Oakland has led 2-0 in a best-of-five series, but it couldn't get that clinching win.
In 2001 the A's won two straight at New York, then lost three in a row to the Yankees, including two at home, to drop the ALDS.
In 2002 the A's were up on the Twins in the ALDS, 2-1, but wound up losing the next two games.
In 2003 the A's were up 2-0 on the Red Sox only to lose three straight.
The franchise's recent sad history in potential clinching games doesn't mean much to the current A's, most of whom weren't around for the previous struggles.
"We've done a good job to win two games, but we haven't won anything yet," A's first baseman Nick Swisher said. "A lot of guys are hungry. We're not going to let up because we all know what can happen."
This is a different A's team and a different opponent, and the A's do not intend to let Minnesota get up off the mat if they can help it.
"If you let up for a second, they can get right back in it," A's pitcher Barry Zito said. "We know we can't let up."
"The history isn't important, taking care of today is important," Thomas said. "We're only up two games, and we have to be careful not to get caught up in [talk that the series is over]. That's when you get in trouble. You can't start thinking 'Well, we only need one more.' You have to go after each game like it's the last game of the World Series. You can't ever let up.
"This team has a lot of character. I know we will keep after it and keep playing hard."
After Thursday's off-day, the two teams will meet on Friday at McAfee Coliseum. The Twins will have a chance to regroup, while Oakland and right-hander Haren will try to complete the sweep against Radke.
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"We have missed some opportunities," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think we are 0-for- with runners in scoring position, but this is a good pitching staff and we are having a hard time right now driving in runs ... when we do hit it hard. So it's just not going our way. We have been backed into a corner, we know that, these guys won't quit. We are going to Oakland, we will have a day workout and we will go back out there Friday and see what we can do."
Oakland center fielder Mark Kotsay said the A's are not looking beyond Friday's game.
"Our focus is to go out and work out tomorrow, have a good workout and focus on Radke," Kotsay said. "He is a great pitcher, he has been in these situations before.
"The Oakland A's have been in this situation before, 2-0 in the series, so there is some history here," he added. "Obviously, it's a new group of guys. Other than maybe four or five guys with Zito and [Eric] Chavez leading, those guys who have been in this situation before, we know, as a club, and we have battled al year. We have had our ups and downs, we have gone through a lot ... and we are not looking past Game 3 obviously."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.