Wild, wacky stuff
Common theme in Twins-A's series has been lunacyPosted: Saturday October 05, 2002 7:14 PM
Updated: Saturday October 05, 2002 7:58 PM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
MINNEAPOLIS -- To A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson, a playoff series is more of a short-story anthology than a novel.
“There’s no link to the previous game,” he said after the Twins thumped the A’s, 11-2, in Game 4 of the Division Series. “Each game is a separate book, a separate episode. Every game is so different, and it always takes one big hit or big pitch to win.”
Except in this series, where the games have turned on big errors, freak plays and bad pitches and the common theme has been lunacy.
Before Game 1 on Tuesday, the vast majority of the Twins had never played in a playoff series. They still haven’t -- they simply have four sloppy October games under their belts. Maybe that’s why they’ve been so relaxed and confident since they got their playoff jitters out early in Game 1.
“We don’t know any better,” says leftfielder Jacques Jones.
Adds first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, “Whether we’re too stupid or we’re a loose group, we don’t get rattled.”
Someone needs to tell them that the postseason is supposed to be more of a molar-grinder than this. In Game 4, it was the A’s, supposedly chock-full of playoff experience, who looked shaky and tight.
The Twins turned a 2-2 tie into a rout by scoring seven runs, five of them unearned, in the fourth inning. They had just four hits in the rally. The A’s helped them along with a walk, a hit batter and killer throwing errors by shortstop Miguel Tejada and first baseman Scott Hatteberg.
“[Starter Tim Hudson] should have been out of that inning without any runs being scored,” said Oakland manager Art Howe. “But that’s baseball.”
But it shouldn’t be October baseball. Maybe it’s the effect of playing under the blinding sun in Oakland and in the pinball world of the Metrodome, but a series that should read like Tom Clancy instead has unfolded as if it were being scripted by Lewis Carroll.
There have been four absurd games in which drama has for the most been absent. Two of the American League’s best defenses during the regular season have made seven errors and allowed nine unearned runs.
In Game 1, the Twins rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win 7-5; none of the three games since has had its outcome in question after the seventh inning.
“We haven’t seen a game that we expected,” Mientkiewicz said after Game 4. “We expected 1-0, 3-2 games. We haven’t had one yet.”
Which is why it’s impossible to predict what might happen in Game 5 on Sunday, when Game 2 winner Mark Mulder faces Game 1 winner Brad Radke.
It’s impossible to predict how the smiley Twins, who play music in their clubhouse after losses and trade frat-house barbs like currency, will react if the deciding game of the series comes down to one tense, late-inning play.
One thing is certain, though. The most unexpected idea of all -- the Twins in the ALCS -- is alive for another day.