October 1, 2002
The first hurdle for the Twins, who many assumed were just happy to be a part of the postseason for the first time in a decade, was to get to the ballpark.
It seemed that the Twins were on the wrong track, literally, before even getting to the ballpark. A car accident that blocked traffic on the Bay Bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco prompted several players to skip the team bus and take public transportation from their hotel to the game. Several boarded the wrong BART train and went in the wrong direction, including starter Brad Radke.
“It was odd,” Radke said. “We decided to hop on the BART and it just didn’t work out.”
“We just realized that we’re not the brightest bunch of guys,” said first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who took the right train to the game.
They all made it, but perhaps they could have used a bit more time to get used to the spotlight of the postseason. The Twins looked lost for the first three innings, committing three errors in the field on the way to allowing 5 runs in the first two innings.
“We came out a little tighter than I thought we would,” Gardenhire said.
It was a comedy of errors that 2002 Twins fans were not used to. Throughout the season the Twins were highly regarded as the best defensive team in baseball. ESPN had even devoted an entire “web gems” segments to “Twins gems” late in the season. None of those things were evident in the first three innings at Oakland, and it looked as though the team was going to get blown out of the ballpark.
Down 5-1 after the first two innings and things looking bleak, the Twins started showing some more stability in the field, and a little life at the plate, when Corey Koskie made up for his contributions to the errors with a two-run home run in the top of the third inning.
“Everything fell back into place,” Gardenhire said. “Right then, I think our guys said, ‘Hey, we got a shot here. Keep playing boys.’ I thought it was huge.”
“It was frustrating and we were mad about [the mistakes],” said Radke, who allowed one earned run on eight hits and a walk while getting three strikeouts over five innings. “But we certainly weren’t ready to quit. We’ve been down before. We knew we could come back. Corey’s home run really got us going.”
Koskie came up big again later in the game when he drove in the go-ahead, and eventual winning run, in the top of the sixth. It was the tail end of a three-run inning in which the Oakland bullpen unraveled almost as much as the Twins’ defense had earlier in the game. After Mienkiewicz knocked out starter Tim Hudson with a solo home run, the Oakland pen allowed three consecutive hits, including a Jacque Jones double that tied the score.
AJ Pierzynski added an insurance run with an RBI triple in the seventh.
Meanwhile, the Twins bullpen, a strength all season, came through with scoreless efforts by Johan Santana (1.2 IP 1 H), JC Romero (1.1 IP 1 H), and Eddie Guardado (1.0 IP 1 H).
A’s 3B Eric Chavez may have summed up the afternoon best:
“The Twins played horrible and fantastic all in the same game,” Chavez said. “And they’re only going to play better from here on out.”
Two of the top game WPA belonged to the Twins bullpen.
1, AJ Pierzynski 0.30
2. Johan Santana 0.14
3. JC Romero 0.13
Ted Lilly didn’t even pitch a full inning but he was the goat according to WPA, just edging out Twins’ starter Radke, who allowed all five runs though only one was earned.
1. Ted Lilly -0.24
2. Brad Radke -0.23