ALCS scene switches to sunny AnaheimPosted: Thursday October 10, 2002 8:54 PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Goodbye wacky dome, hello sunny California.
The AL Championship Series moved Thursday from the Minneapolis Metrodome, where grounders to shortstop can become doubles, to breezy Orange County, where 71 palm trees greet spectators coming off the freeway to the ballpark.
In Minneapolis, the air is cool. In Anaheim, the fans look cool.
No Homer Hankies here, but a lot of sun glasses and an inspirational "rally monkey" that makes fans go ape.
"Their fans here are going to be just as crazy as the fans in the Metrodome," Minnesota pitcher Eric Milton said. "I'm sure it's going to be loud and hectic." With the series tied at a game apiece, Milton pitches Friday night against Jarrod Washburn in the first of three games this weekend at Edison International Field, where 11,000 gallons of water spray up from the rocks behind the fence in left-center and fireworks are set off to celebrate Anaheim home runs.
During the first two games in cool Minneapolis, the only water coming down was hitting the roof of the Metrodome, the pressure-filled ballpark where the baseball field looks like a big pool table.
"I don't mind playing on the turf for a couple of days, but there's a definite difference in the way the ball appears in the dome than it does outside," Anaheim second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "It's nice to get back here, and it'll be fun playing on the grass, outside, in front of this crowd that's been so electric over the last few weeks."
When the teams arrived at the sun-splashed ballpark for Thursday's workouts, there was a new, inflated 15-foot Angels' jersey tethered behind the bleachers in right-center field with the No. 26 -- for founding owner Gene Autry, the team's 26th man.
Minnesota and Anaheim were both happy at home this year, going 54-27 and tying Oakland for the best home record in the AL. While the Twins were 40-40 on the road, the Angels were 45-36.
"Some ballparks are tailor-made for a home ballpark," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It presents a challenge when you go to play them. Sometimes, that's what makes playing on the road tougher."
At the Metrodome, the Angels had to adapt.
"These surfaces are like night and day," Scioscia said. "At times that surface is so fast that you have to get into a different defensive configuration, maybe open up some holes for balls to drop in, as I think both teams had happen to them over the last couple of games. Hopefully, that won't happen here."
Milton, who no-hit the Angels at the Metrodome on Sept. 11, 1999, has no problem pitching in Anaheim: He's 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five career starts.
"There's certain pitching mounds around the major leagues that you like and feel comfortable with," Milton said. "And this is one of them."
While Milton struggled against the Angels this year, going 1-2 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts, Washburn was 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA against the Twins.
Minnesota struggled against left-handers all year, hitting .252 against them -- 30 points lower than the Twins' average against righties. Jacque Jones batted .333 against righties and .213 against lefties.
"They're predominantly a left-handed-hitting lineup," Washburn said. "That being said, they're not going to come out here and roll over tomorrow. They're going to go out there, battle me, put tough at-bats together. The guy that gives me the most problems is [Denny] Hocking. We've had some great battles over the past years. He's won most of them."
Hocking, out for this series after splitting a fingernail in last weekend's first-round celebration in Oakland, is 7-for-17 (.412) with five doubles in his career against Washburn. Doug Mientkiewicz is 5-for-12 (.417).
"A lot of teams struggle off of the left-handed pitchers," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, quickly listing Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Mark Buehrle, David Wells and Andy Pettitte. "Those guys are nasty. It's not like too many teams have done very well. Yeah, we have a left-handed-hitting lineup which makes it a little tougher for us.
"We've seen Mr. Washburn plenty of times. We know he's going to come at you. There's a guy that throws right around 90 mph, just keeps pumping those fastballs and has the heart of a lion."
Neither team was supposed to be playing this time of year, according to the experts. The Twins weren't supposed to be playing anywhere, targeted for elimination by baseball owners, who were stopped from folding the team by the Minnesota courts.
"I think this team has been motivated from the winter, when the contraction issue came out," Gardenhire said. "We're doing something that hasn't been done for the Minnesota fans in a long time. We're just trying to have a good time and play. My goal as the manager is to make sure I don't trip them."
Notes: Garret Anderson has the most success against Milton among Anaheim players, batting .364 (8-for-22) with four homers. ... Both Milton and Washburn won Game 4 of their team's first-round series. ... Angels RF Tim Salmon, who left Game 2 in the third inning because of a tight right hamstring, expects to play Friday.