Twins eliminate A's, advance to meet Angels in ALCSPosted: Sunday October 06, 2002 7:34 PM
Updated: Tuesday October 08, 2002 3:47 AM
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- In the joyful chaos of another clubhouse celebration for the team that almost disappeared, Torii Hunter reminded his teammates of the most remarkable thing about the Minnesota Twins.
"We weren't supposed to beeee here! We weren't supposed to beeee here!" the All-Star outfielder repeatedly shouted over the din.
The low-budget, big-hearted Twins aren't contracting. Their amazing season is still expanding -- all the way to a most unlikely AL Championship Series.
Brad Radke pitched 6 2/3 dominant innings to beat Oakland again, and the Twins survived a late rally to top the Athletics 5-4 Sunday in the decisive Game 5 of their Division Series.
The Twins made their first playoff appearance in 11 years despite a tiny payroll and commissioner Bud Selig's offseason plan to eliminate them. Facing consecutive elimination games -- and a tumultuous six-run ninth inning in the clincher -- didn't intimidate a team that faced its own dissolution last spring.
The Contraction Kids won 11-2 at the Metrodome on Saturday, then crossed half the continent to win the tense clincher about 30 hours later.
After all, the Twins have faced down bigger foes than the A's this season.
"I'm delighted for them," Selig said from his Milwaukee home. "It's a great story, just because of the way they're playing. I'm enjoying watching them.
"The rest of it, the history of what happened before, it's in the past now."
The Twins didn't get it done without drama. After A's closer Billy Koch gave up three runs in the ninth, Mark Ellis hit a three-run homer against Minnesota closer Eddie Guardado to pull Oakland back within a run.
Randy Velarde singled with two outs, but Ray Durham -- who homered earlier and had three hits in the game -- fouled out to second baseman Denny Hocking.
The Twins made a joyous pile on the field, while many of the A's sat motionless in the dugout. Later, the Twins doused each other with champagne and beer -- as well as the ice from the champagne trays -- while leaving a layer of ice and water on the clubhouse carpet.
"You need some of that," Jones said.
"Thank you, young man," Pohlad replied.
"We had a bunch of young guys that played their hearts out every day," Pohlad added. "We have to win the next two rounds, and I'm not even going to talk about contraction until then."
The Twins, who ran away with the AL Central, will face Anaheim in the ALCS beginning Tuesday night in Minnesota. The wild-card Angels shocked the four-time defending AL champion New York Yankees in the Division Series.
During spring training, there probably wasn't a soul who would have predicted a meeting between the underfunded Twins and the overlooked Angels.
"I don't think we're surprised to be here, and I don't think Anaheim is surprised, either," Hunter said. "Everybody else in the world? They're surprised as hell.
"The country wants to see the poor teams win and play. I was rooting for the Angels. It's going to be low-budget LCS. We all make minimum wage out there."
Matthew LeCroy drove home one run and scored another as the Twins got two early runs to support Radke, who got two of Minnesota's three wins in the series.
A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer off A's closer Billy Koch in the ninth to finally give Minnesota some breathing room, and the Twins leaped out of their dugout to celebrate. Several hitters later, David Ortiz added an RBI double to make it 5-1 -- and provide what turned out to be the winning run.
With consecutive victories against star Oakland pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, the Twins stuck around while big spenders like the Yankees and Arizona went home early this October.
Minnesota hadn't been to the postseason since 1991, but the Twins have won all five playoff series they've been in since 1970. Oakland has lost its last five series since 1990 -- the last three in a decisive fifth game.
"What we've got to do is find out how to get it done in three or four games instead of going to a fifth game," said manager Art Howe, who might not be back to figure it out with the A's.
Tejada, the A's MVP candidate, went 0-for-4 -- striking out against hard-throwing LaTroy Hawkins with two outs and a runner on base in the eighth -- to finish 3-for-21 (.143) for the series. He also made several defensive blunders at shortstop, particularly in Oakland's Game 4 loss.
With the Yankees out of their way, the A's thought this would be the season when its young roster finally showed it was capable of great things.
"I was making a lot of my pitches, but they hit the few mistakes I made," Mulder said. "I just don't think we played that bad in this series. If Ray hits a two-run homer (in the ninth), we're not even talking about it. When you lose, I guess you have to find reasons."
Hocking singled home in the second. The Twins added another run in the third when Cristian Guzman doubled and scored on LeCroy's single.
The crowd of 32,146 was smaller than either of the gatherings at the series' previous midweek games, but it also was louder and more enthusiastic.
Notes: A's outfielder David Justice said he's almost completely certain he'll retire. ... Guzman got two doubles -- but he was easily thrown out at third base when he tried to stretch for a triple in the first inning. ... A's catcher Ramon Hernandez went 0-for-2. He's 1-for-27 in the past two postseasons.