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Updated: Wednesday October 2, 2002 10:21 PM
Minnesota Twins
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Stats: Batting |  Pitching
1 7 1
W Mark Mulder
L Joe Mays
Oakland Athletics
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Stats: Batting |  Pitching
9 14 0
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  Mark Mulder
  Eric Chavez

OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Eric Chavez provided the breathing room for Mark Mulder, who proceeded to suffocate the Minnesota Twins.

Chavez continued his hot hitting with a long three-run homer in the opening inning and Mulder allowed a run in six frames as the Oakland Athletics evened their best-of-five American League Division Series at one game apiece with a 9-1 rout of the Twins.

After blowing an early four-run lead on Tuesday, the A's broke on top following Chavez's first career postseason home run. But unlike Game One, when A's starter Tim Hudson allowed the Twins to rally, Mulder (1-0) made the lead stand up.

The 25-year-old lefthander allowed four singles and a sixth-inning homer. He walked two, struck out three and threw 57 of 90 pitches for strikes.

"I knew it was a big game," Mulder said. "I didn't try to do anything extra, I didn't try to do anything special. For the most part I think lots of times I was overthrowing a little bit, but I made the pitches when I had to."

Both sides agreed the combination of the early homer and Mulder's pitching were just too tough.

"That first-inning homer broke our back," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "But Mulder was tough today. He wasn't as sharp as he can be but he was getting his outs."

"We had to win today," Chavez said. "That was imperative. We got runs early today and this time they held up. Now we are back in it. It was big today to have Mark Mulder out there. He's been there all year for us after big losses. We felt no pressure because Mark was out there and he was going along so well. When's he's on the mound we seem to coast out there."

Chad Bradford followed Mulder and worked around a hit in two innings before closer Billy Koch recorded the final three outs.

Unlike Game One starter Brad Radke, who battled to keep the Twins in Tuesday's contest, Joe Mays (0-1) struggled throughout. He was tagged for six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"I think I was too high strung today," Mays said. "Especially in the first inning. I just couldn't make get that first out every inning. That's what I wanted to do. That was my plan. I just wanted to get that out."

After a day off, the series resumes Friday in Minnesota, where the Twins are 15-5 in the postseason. Minnesota sends its hottest pitcher, veteran righthander Rick Reed, to the mound against Cy Young Award candidate Barry Zito, who led the AL with 23 wins.

"We had an opportunity to go home up 2-0 but we are going there 1-1," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was a disappointing loss for us in that we were blown out."

Mays struggled right from the start, walking Ray Durham on five pitches and surrendering a long double to Scott Hatteberg. After Corey Koskie made a great play on a ground ball by Miguel Tejada, Chavez drilled a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for a 3-0 lead.

Mays stranded two in the second and left the bases loaded in the third but Oakland broke open the contest after two were out in the fourth. With Durham at first and two outs, Tejada ripped an RBI double to left-center field. Chavez was walked intentionally and Tony Fiore came on for Mays.

Fiore immediately walked Jermaine Dye and David Justice, who is second to the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter with 88 career postseason hits, ripped a three-run triple. Ellis followed with a double that extended Oakland's advantage to 8-0.

"The postseason is a different feeling," said Justice, who is in the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. "I really try and focus on it. Every at-bat is so important. You just have to keep your focus always.

"I just feel blessed to be here and play the game. There have been so many great players that have never gotten here and here I am again."

An RBI single in the fifth by Hatteberg, who entered the game with just three hits in 13 career postseason at-bats, capped the scoring for Oakland.

Guzman opened the sixth with his first career postseason homer but Mulder got through the heart of the Twins' order to finish the inning.

"I just tried to pitch the game inning by inning and not think ahead of what could happen," Mulder said.

Minnesota had runners at the corners with one out in the eighth but Matt LeCroy, who had hits in two of his three previous at-bats, bounced into an inning-ending double play.

Koch allowed a leadoff single in the ninth but got the next three batters, including Tom Prince, who struck out to end the inning.

© 2002 Sportsticker