Oakland 6, Minnesota 3

Oct. 4, 2002 at 10:23 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Ray Durham and Scott Hatteberg opened the game with two of Oakland's four home runs Friday and the Athletics overcame the constant noise created by the largest home crowd in franchise history to down the Minnesota Twins, 6-3, and take command of their American League Division Series.

The Twins rallied from an early 3-0 deficit against starter Barry Zito to deadlock the game in the fifth inning, creating a relentless wave of noise from the 55,932 fans who wedged themselves into the Metrodome.

But Jermaine Dye led off the sixth with a liner into the left field seats to put Oakland back in front and the Athletics held on to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. The Athletics will send Tim Hudson to the mound Saturday in hopes of finishing off the Twins. Minnesota will counter with Eric Milton.

"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."

Durham stunned the Minnesota crowd when he led off the game with a line drive to center. Torri Hunter attempted to make a shoestring catch, but the ball scooted under his glove and bounded along the artificial surface to the wall. Durham had no trouble racing around the bases for an inside-the-park homer -- the first ever hit in a division series game.

Hatteberg followed with a blast to right-center to put the Twins in a bigger hole and Terrence Long crushed an upper deck shot to right in the fourth to make it 3-0.

"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 resilient."

Minnesota was held without a hit by Zito in the first three innings, but Hunter led off the fourth with a double and he moved to third on a bloop single by Doug Mientkiewicz. With one out, another bloop to center glanced off the glove of shortstop Miguel Tejeda, allowing Hunter to score the Twins' first run.

Zito, who won 23 games during the regular season, walked Jacque Jones to open the fifth and Corey Koskie drove Jones home by pounding a triple off the base of the left field wall. Hunter then delivered Koskie with a single up the middle.

But Dye quickly gave Oakland the lead again with his sixth-inning homer and the Athletics added two more runs in the seventh. Durham walked to start the inning and Hatteberg doubled him home. Hatteberg took third on the throw to the plate and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tejeda.

The loss went to starter Rick Reed, who gave up the four solo homers over five-plus innings while 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."

Zito went six innings and also struck out eight, including the last three batters he faced, before Ricardo Rincon and Billy Koch shut out the Twins over the final three innings.

"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," 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."

The Athletics played a solid game in difficult circumstances after a bizarre series of fielding problems in the opening two innings.

Leading off the Minnesota first, Jones hit a high pop fly down the first base line that was a classic example of the difficulty visiting teams have with the Metrodome roof. Hatteberg drifted down the line into foul territory and appeared ready to catch the popup. But he lost the ball against the background of the white roof and it fell 20 feet from where he was standing -- barely landing in foul territory.

Jones, however, eventually struck out.

In the second inning, Hunter hit another popup near first base that Hatteberg saw all the way. But just as Hatteberg was about to catch it, second baseman Mark Ellis bumped into him and the ball fell safely. Ellis never heard Hatteberg calling for the ball because of the almost deafening noise created by the fans.

Moments later, Zito had the ball slip out of his hand during his windup and it sailed sideways toward the first base line, allowing Hunter to get to second. Minnesota wound up loading the bases without the benefit of a hit, but Zito struck out Luis Rivas to end the inning.

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