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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : Twins Chill the Tigers, Bring World Series In From Cold

October 13, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — The World Series is going indoors, to the land of 10,000 lakes and 55,000 flakes, to a place where noise is an artform, Homer Hankies are the haute fashion accessory and the Kirby Shuffle is the dance step of the day.

The World Series is going to Minnesota, home of the Twins and the Metrodome, which is about as close as we've ever come to lunar baseball. One small step for Tom Kelly, one giant step for mankind. Come inside and hit a baseball off the Hefty bag in right field. Or hit it into the air conditioning. Or lose it in the Teflon roof.

For this, we have the Detroit Tigers to thank.

Winners of 98 games, the Tigers were keepers of the old ways--they play in a real baseball park, for instance--and they were personally entrusted with preserving the sanctity of the grand old game's grandest tradition. Beat up on the Twins, as Detroit was fully expected to do, and the World Series was safe for another October.

Well, get ready for fiberglass with your fly balls and air ducts with your doubles because Monday at Tiger Stadium, Minnesota beat Detroit, 9-5, to win Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The Twins also won Games 1, 2 and 4, which means the American League pennant will fly in Minnesota for the first time since 1965.

And that means that on Saturday, the Twins will host either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals in the first Innerworld Series.

The implications are staggering, but not any more so than the way Minnesota engineered this technological breakthrough. In this playoff against Detroit, the Twins were the can't wins--the guys invited to the tournament just to fill out the field, owners of the worst record of any division titlist, paper champions set up to be folded, spindled and mutilated by the Tigers.

It never happened.

Minnesota won the first two games at home, which most attributed to the Metrodome. The Twins are the only ones who know how to play in the blasted thing. But on the road, on real grass and in real weather, they would wither, just as they had 52 times in 81 regular-season away games.

Instead, they took 2 of 3 games at Tiger Stadium and were separated from a Detroit sweep by one swing of Pat Sheridan's bat. Sheridan's eighth-inning home run in Game 3 gave the Tigers their only victory, 7-6.

Game 5 was overwhelming. Detroit started Doyle Alexander, who was 9-0 with the Tigers after a mid-August trade, and the Twins knocked him out with a four-run second inning. Minnesota added five more runs over the last three innings, amassed 15 hits and dismantled the winningest team in the major leagues on its home turf.

"I think the rest of the country did not give us much of a chance," said Kelly, the Twins' 37-year-old rookie manager. "And rightly so. We had won only 85 games and had a poor record on the road. They won 98 games and played great the last week of the season against Toronto. They deserved to be favored.

"I'm so glad our guys put on such a good show . . . I'm real happy we won it on the road. We were raked over the coals for our road record, and justifiably so. We showed we can win some games on the road."

Some games? These were Minnesota's first playoff games in 17 years, when the Twins were swept in 1970 by the Baltimore Orioles. Before these games, Minnesota was 0-6 in the American League playoffs and 3-10 in postseason games. The Twins lost to the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series, 4 games to 3.

The game that sent Minnesota to the 1987 World Series began to fall apart for Detroit in the second inning. Alexander faced eight batters and got only one of them out by his own doing.

Gary Gaetti, voted the series' Most Valuable Player, ignited the inning with a leadoff single. Randy Bush followed with a walk, and Tom Brunansky followed with a two-run double, before being thrown out in an attempt to stretch the hit into a triple.

Steve Lombardozzi picked things right up again with a single and, after Tim Laudner moved him to second base with an infield out, Lombardozzi scored on a single by Dan Gladden. Alexander then hit Greg Gagne with a pitch and Kirby Puckett, one Twin most of America knows, singled home a fourth run.

Alexander the Great was Alexander the Gone. He was replaced by Eric King, who held Minnesota down long enough for the Tigers to pull to within 4-3--on an RBI single by Alan Trammell and a two-run home run by Matt Nokes in the bottom of the fourth.

Yet, the game retained the feel of a blowout. King wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. He left Puckett in scoring position in the fourth.

And, finally, in the seventh, Detroit's season began to crumble.

A run-scoring sacrifice fly by Randy Bush in the seventh. A double by Gladden and an error on a double-play attempt by Tiger first baseman Darrell Evans, enabling Gladden to score an eighth-inning run. A home run by Brunansky and back-to-back RBI doubles by Gladden and Gagne in the ninth.

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