MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Everyone already knew that Barry Zito
had the talent to be successful. Now they know he can do it
even when struggling.
Zito labored through six innings but was supported by four home
runs as the Oakland Athletics defeated the Minnesota Twins, 6-3,
to take a two games to one lead in their American League
After holding Minnesota hitless through three innings, Zito
(1-0) battled through the next three, allowing three runs and
five hits with four walks and eight strikeouts. But the
lefthander showed his maturity by escaping several dangerous
situations and never permitting the Twins to take the lead.
"Barry really pitched a heck of a game today," Oakland manager
Art Howe said. "We made a couple of mistakes, made him have to
work out of some tough jams, and he did it."
"Barry did great," Athletics first baseman Scott Hatteberg said.
"Those two innings were tough, but he made good pitches. It's
hard when you make good pitches and the ball still falls in, but
he stayed locked in and got the job done."
After Jermaine Dye's leadoff home run in the top of the sixth
inning gave Oakland a 4-3 advantage, Zito retired Minnesota in
order in the bottom half before giving way to the bullpen, which
worked three scoreless innings.
"Barry did a heck of a job," Dye said. "He gave up some hits,
battled back with the bases loaded, got out of the inning. Even
when they tied the game up, he still hung in there and did his
job. He hung in there for one more inning and we were fortunate
enough to take that lead."
"We knew Barry was going to keep us in the game," Oakland center
fielder Terrence Long said. "We knew they would score more
than one run and they weren't going to give up."
Ricardo Rincon tossed two scoreless frames before turning things
over to closer Billy Koch, who worked around a double in the
ninth to notch his first career postseason save.
The Athletics can advance to the AL Championship Series for the
first time since 1992 with a victory in Game Four on Saturday.
"Tomorrow is going to be a big day for us, for both teams," Dye
said. "We don't have time to think about what we did today.
We've got to put it behind us and get a good night's rest and
then come out early to the ballpark and try and do the same
thing we did, score some runs early."
Ray Durham and Hatteberg made postseason history by leading off
the game with back-to-back homers, putting Oakland ahead early,
2-0. Long also homered for the Athletics, who tied the Division
Series record for most homers in a game.
Minnesota starter Rick Reed (0-1) also entered the record book,
becoming the first pitcher in Division Series history to serve
up four homers in a game. Reed, who had allowed just three
homers in five previous playoff starts, yielded four runs and
six hits in five innings, walking two and striking out eight.
"I think the only pitch I'd like to take back is the pitch to
Dye," Reed said. "I'd like to get that ball in. But you can't
take it back. That pitch cost us the game and I take full
responsibility for that."
"I thought he battled through it," Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "He gave up four home runs. He is throwing
the ball over the plate, he is around the zone. He made four
bad pitches and they hit them out of the ballpark. That is what
they do; they do those things."
Reed tied a team record for most strikeouts in a postseason
game, set by Bert Blyleven in 1987 and tied by Jack Morris in
Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.
Durham opened the contest by lining Reed's third pitch into
center field. As Torii Hunter approached to make the catch, the
ball sank under his glove and rolled to the wall, allowing
Durham to circle the bases for an inside-the-park homer - the
first in Division Series history.
"Those are the toughest plays, those that are hit right at you,"
Hunter said. "But I will play as I always do and get every
"That was a tough play for Hunter," Reed said. "He's a great
center fielder. He's made some big plays for me this season and
he tried to there. He was caught between a rock and a hard
In five career postseason contests, Durham has six hits - four
doubles and two homers.
"Durham's home run was huge," Zito said. "He hit the ball
pretty hard and I think it just got by Torii. It was really
big, the first hitter of the game, and then Hatteberg follows up
with the home run and kind of took the pressure off me a little
Hatteberg belted a 1-0 offering 392 feet for his first career
playoff homer, marking the third time in team postseason history
the Athletics have hit consecutive homers. Mark McGwire and
Terry Steinbach were the last to accomplish the feat, doing it
in Game One of the 1992 ALCS.
"I think it was the perfect start for us," Hatteberg said. "We
got some runs and I think it was an exclamation point. It might
have taken a little wind out of their sails, but they're
Long increased Oakland's lead to 3-0 in the fourth, launching a
solo blast to right field with two out. But the Twins began to
chip away in the bottom of the frame.
Hunter led off with a double and moved to third on Doug
Mientkiewicz's single. After Zito fanned Mike Cuddyer, A.J.
Pierzynski singled to shallow center to score Hunter and put
Minnesota on the board.
With one on and one out in the fifth, Corey Koskie hammered a
3-2 pitch off the wall in left-center field for a triple,
drawing Minnesota within one run. Two batters later, Hunter
atoned for his earlier miscue by stroking a single to center to
plate Koskie and tie the contest.
After Zito got Mientkiewicz to pop out to end the inning, Dye
ripped Reed's 0-2 pitch into the left field seats to regain the
lead for the Athletics.
"It was key," Dye said. "I knew it was big when I was jogging
back in. I just tried to do what I could to put the ball in
play and it got out. It really turned things back in our favor.
It was probably the biggest home run of my career."
Oakland tacked on two runs in the seventh to give the bullpen
some breathing room. After Durham drew a one-out walk, pinch
hitter Randy Velarde smacked an RBI double to deep left and took
third on the throw home. Mike Jackson relieved lefthander
Johan Santana and allowed a sacrifice fly by Miguel Tejada to
cap the scoring.
One of the leading candidates to take home the AL Cy Young Award
this season, Zito worked out of a jam in the second that was
caused by miscommunication.
With one out, Hunter hit a pop-up between first and second that
fell when second baseman Mark Ellis collided with first baseman
Hatteberg, who failed to catch a pop that fortunately bounced
foul in the first inning.
As Zito was beginning his delivery to Mientkiewicz, the ball
squirted out of his hand and trickled between the mound and
home, allowing Hunter to advance to second. The lefthander
walked Mientkiewicz and Pierzynski before striking out Luis
Rivas to escape unscathed.
"I knew I had to battle a little bit," Zito said. "I was
getting behind on some guys and when that pop-up was dropped, I
mean, I don't take things like that to heart because you know
inside yourself whether you are going to get guys out or not,
and if you let it affect you, you are not going to last very
long. But, I mean, I was confident that I could still get guys
out. I walked a couple guys and then got Rivas on a 2-2
"He wasn't at his best," Oakland catcher Ramon Hernandez said.
"He ended up throwing a lot of fastballs and really work both
sides of the plate with the fastball. He really made the
pitches when he needed to. Playing against this team, they are
never going to give up, but he made the pitches he needed."
Zito admitted the unusual wild pitch is nothing new to him.
"I grip my fastball really loosely," he said. "It's happened so
many times, in (batting practice) when I am playing catch and
it happened two times this year in warmups on the mound, but
never in a game. I knew it was inevitable one day it would
happen and, of course, it happened in the playoffs on national
TV, so I am glad everyone knows that that's something I do now."