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TWIN-A'S REPORT

Chavez Turns Pain of Last Season Into Source of Inspiration for A's

October 03, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna

OAKLAND — Few Oakland players took last year's American League division series loss to the New York Yankees as hard as third baseman Eric Chavez. Had he not gone three for 21 with no runs batted in, Chavez thought, the A's probably wouldn't have lost the five-game series after winning the first two games in New York.

"I had a little talk with him about that," A's center fielder Terrence Long said. "The thing about the playoffs is it's going to take everyone to win. You can't put all the pressure on yourself."

Chavez took Long's advice to heart. He seems far more relaxed in his third postseason series, and the results have been striking: Chavez had two run-scoring singles in Game 1 Tuesday and hit his first playoff home run, a three-run shot in the first inning, to catapult the A's toward a 9-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 Wednesday.

"Last year, I took myself out of the game by trying to go deep," said Chavez, who also singled in the third inning and walked and scored in the fourth. "That's when I get into trouble. You go into slumps when you try to hit home runs. You need hits. I'm just trying to get some singles."

Chavez, whose 34-homer, 109-RBIs season was somewhat overshadowed by Miguel Tejada hitting .308 with 34 homers and 131 RBIs, has so much natural power, Long doesn't think he needs to swing for the fences.

"We call him instant offense, because as soon as he puts a bat in his hands, if there are two runners on, we can score three runs," Long said. "He can mis-hit balls and they still go 400 feet. There's no reason to try to go deep."

But deep Chavez went in the first inning Wednesday, blasting a Joe Mays pitch far over the 367-foot mark in right field. There was so little doubt the ball was gone that Chavez, who is known for his cockiness, flipped his bat in the box and stared at the ball for a moment before beginning his trot.

"But I don't think he was intentionally trying to pose or anything," Oakland closer Billy Koch said. "It was more of a statement: 'Here we are, we're not going anywhere, we're going to battle you to the end.' "

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Though the Twins were blown out from the start Wednesday, there were at least two things worth salvaging from the loss.

The first? "Nobody got hurt, except our feelings," Minnesota Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We kind of got waxed, but I guess if you're going to get beat, you might as well get waxed."

The second? The underdog Twins earned a split of the first two games in Oakland and can win the series by sweeping two games in the Metrodome, where they went 54-27 this season.

"No one in the world thought we'd win one game here, and we got one," Twin first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Now, we get to go home and play in front of 60,000 screaming fans, waving homer hankies

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Oakland reserve first baseman Olmedo Saenz underwent surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the postseason. The A's will not be able to replace him on the playoff roster until the second round, if they advance.... After breaking only three bats during the regular season, Long broke three bats Tuesday and another Wednesday.

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