MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Minnesota capitalized on an Oakland defensive collapse to score seven unearned runs in the fourth inning Saturday and Eric Milton worked seven innings to give the Twins a runaway, 11-2 victory over the Athletics and force a deciding fifth game in their American League Division Series.
Oakland committed two huge errors in the fourth along with two wild pitches and a hit batsman while the Twins scored seven runs on just four hits to break open what had been a 2-2 game.
The contest drew a Metrodome-record 55,960 and many fans stayed on their feet from the start.
"I think it was big," Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said of the crowd. "They were really in the game early. They were screaming, `Let's go, Twins' before Milton even threw a pitch. They are great. It was a heck of an atmosphere."
"That one inning was what it is all about," said Minnesota center fielder Torri Hunter. "The fans were cheering even when we were up nine runs. They are great. We needed that."
By staving off elimination, the Twins earned the right to head back to Oakland. The heavily favored Athletics face a Game 5 in the Division Series for the third straight year. Oakland lost both of those previous contests and is 3-9 in its last 12 postseason home games.
Game 5 will be Sunday, with the A's sending Game 2 winner Mark Mulder against Brad Radke, who won Game 1.
After Oakland took a 2-1 lead in the series Friday, Minnesota Mientkiewicz vowed he and his teammates would not allow the Athletics to celebrate advancement in the playoffs in the Metrodome.
It was an innocent looking single by Mientkiewicz that opened the fourth inning, which saw 11 men come to the plate and only three earn an RBI.
Luis Rivas grounded deep in the hole and shortstop Miguel Tejada tracked it down. It appeared Tejada had a good chance of getting the lead runner at third base, but the shortstop's throw sailed high over the head of third baseman Eric Chavez, allowing Mientkiewicz to score the go-ahead run.
"I have no excuse for that," Tejada said. "I threw a little off-balance because I thought that was the only chance I had for making a play. It wasn't too close or anything, I just threw it badly."
Pierzynski moved to third base on the error and promptly scored on a wild pitch by Hudson, who then hit Jacque Jones with a pitch. With runners now on first and third, Cristian Guzman hit a grounder to first baseman Scott Hatteberg. Rivas charged down the third base line in an attempt to score, apparently catching Hatteberg by surprise. Although he had plenty of time to get Rivas at the plate, Hatteberg hurried his throw and it bounced in front and then off of catcher Ramon Hernandez.
"I was going to come home with it, but I stuttered my feet and made a bad throw," Hatteberg said. "The whole inning was a lot of bad timing."
Rivas scored and Hudson was replaced by Ted Lilly. Corey Koskie greeted Lilly with a single that drove in Jones from second and moved Guzman to third, from where he scored on a wild pitch by Lilly.
David Ortiz finally made the second out of the inning with a strikeout, but Hunter doubled in a run and Mientkiewicz singled in his second at bat of the inning to drive in another.
The fourth inning ended with Cuddyer flew out to left field.
Mientkiewicz tacked on a two-run homer in the seventh to help make a winner out of Milton, who gave up six hits in seven innings while walking one and striking out three.
Oakland's only runs came in the third inning on Tejada's two-run homer that followed a walk to Hatteberg. Minnesota tied it in its half of the third. Pierzynski singled, moved to third on a double by Jones and came in on a ground out by Guzman. Ortiz doubled home Guzman to deadlock the game.
"The fans here have been through too much to see people on the other team celebrating," Mientkiewicz said. "It is time we gave them something to celebrate. The biggest hit today was from David Ortiz because that got it tied up.
"I kept telling the guys not to give up on any single pitch and not to give up on any at bat and we didn't."
"I think everybody picked each other up," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had some big two-out base hits, so it kind of got the ball rolling, and once that thing starts rolling, everybody wants to get involved in it."
"They strung a lot of hits together and broke the game wide-open," said Oakland Manager Art Howe. "But Hudson pitched a lot better than the way it looked. He should have been out of that inning with no runs being scored, but that's baseball."
Milton retired seven straight batters between the fourth and sixth innings. He allowed more than one runner in an inning just twice.
"I felt pretty good and I made one mistake," Milton said. "But when your guys come back and tie the score, it's easy to forget about that. It's nice to see the guys hitting and running around the bases. So I try to stay loose. And when you get out there, you have to calm yourself down."
The 11 runs tied the Twins' postseason high, set against St. Louis in Game 6 of the 1987 World Series.