Making their first postseason appearance since 1991, the Twins -the best defensive team in the major leagues - looked every bit the newcomer, committing a pair of errors in the opening inning, another in the second to fall behind, 5-1.
But the offense picked up the defense, rallying against Hudson -who had never lost in eight career starts against Minnesota -and inexperienced lefthander Ted Lilly (0-1) in the sixth.
"I think everyone in this clubhouse had the butterflies. I mean everyone," outfielder Jacque Jones said. "We were making mistakes from the get-go. But we've overcome everything thrown our way this year, so why couldn't we overcome this?"
Corey Koskie's two-run homer in the third off Hudson got Minnesota within 5-3 and Doug Mientkiewicz homered in the sixth to slice the deficit to a run. After Oakland left fielder David Justice misplayed a double by Jones that tied the game, Koskie drove in the go-ahead run with a slow roller to first.
While their defense betrayed them, the Twins got their usual stellar effort from their vaunted bullpen. After starter Brad Radke (1-0) struggled through five innings, Johan Santana struck out two over 1 2/3 scoreless frames.
Hudson, who was 5-0 lifetime against Minnesota and unbeaten overall since July 25, allowed four runs and eight hits, including the homers by Koskie and Mientkiewicz.
"I am better than what I pitched today," Hudson said. "That is what is the most frustrating. They got me on a bad day and I think that the next time will be a little different."
"This was the worst I've ever seen Tim Hudson pitch," Mientkiewicz said. "I mean he was making pitches but it wasn't the Tim Hudson I've seen before."
Lilly entered with one out in the sixth and, making just his fifth appearance since July 21, offered little relief. In his first postseason appearance, the 26-year-old allowed two runs on three hits and a walk.
The A's have lost in the opening round of the postseason in each of the last two seasons and now face the prospect of having to win a game in Minnesota, where the Twins are 15-5 in postseason play.
"We still have to win. But in the next four games, if we split, we get to go on," Pierzynski said.
"We have won Game One the last two times and we haven't come out on top, so hopefully this is a good sign," Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said. "We just have to get tomorrow's win and go into Minnesota with a split."
Game Two is Wednesday with Oakland sending lefthander Mark Mulder to the mound against Minnesota righthander Joe Mays.
"We have do the same tomorrow and go back to Minnesota hopefully with two wins," Mientkiewicz said. "I mean, we'd be happy with a split."
Limited to 21 starts this season by a groin pull, Radke was victimized by his defense in the opening inning. He walked Scott Hatteberg with one out and Miguel Tejada reached on a throwing error by shortstop Cristian Guzman.
Chavez singled, scoring Hatteberg, and Tejada came around when Pierzynski failed to catch the throw home from rookie right fielder Mike Cuddyer. After a groundout by Jermaine Dye, Justice made it 3-0 with a bloop single to center field.
The Twins picked up a run in the top of the second but their defensive woes continued in the bottom half. With two out, Ray Durham doubled and scored when the Twins failed to catch an infield pop-up. Tejada reached on a throwing error by third baseman Koskie, and Chavez made it 5-1 with a base hit.
"We just had to overcome our mistakes," Jones said. "I think Brad pitched far better than his numbers indicate he did."
After Koskie's third-inning homer got Minnesota within 5-3, Howe made a difficult call in the sixth, when Hudson allowed a leadoff home run to Mientkiewicz and got Cuddyer on a groundout.
Howe pulled his starter after just 77 pitches and turned to Lilly, who battled shoulder inflammation in the second half of the season.
Pierzynski greeted the reliever with a single, Luis Rivas followed with a base hit and Jones doubled to the wall in left field. Justice appeared to have a play on the ball but mistimed his leap, allowing Pierzynski to score easily. After Guzman walked, Koskie bounced to first, plating Rivas with the go-ahead run.
"I was ready," Lilly said. "I was in the situation and I knew what was going on. Tim didn't have his best stuff today. When he came out, we were still ahead. My job going in there is to keep the score where it was at that time. It is tough for me to go in there and walk out being down. I didn't get my job done today."
"I thought that I had some gas in my tank," Hudson said. "I only had 70-some pitches, but they thought that going to a lefty-lefty matchup was better. I am not upset that they took me out at all. I just still felt good enough to get guys out."
The A's threatened in the sixth, but Santana struck out Tejada and retired Chavez on a comebacker to end the inning.
Pierzynski's RBI triple in the seventh made it 7-5 and Oakland did not mount a threat until Justice and Mark Ellis reached in the ninth. But Guardado, who led the AL in saves, got Piatt - pinch-hitting for Terrence Long - on a 3-2 pitch.
"I was nervous out there, no doubt about it," Guardado said. "I think we all were. But we stuck together just like we have all year. We showed what we were made of and we kept our heads in it. We could have rolled over but we ended up winning this game and showing what this team is about."
"It was nerves, I mean everyone had them," Cuddyer said. "There were jitters, too. But we were able to come back and get the win."
A's infielder Olmedo Saenz suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in the eighth inning and will be lost for the postseason.