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Can They Find a Way to Outfox Mulder?


MINNEAPOLIS — In the postgame interview room Saturday, Minnesota first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said it seemed as if Oakland left-hander Mark Mulder had beaten the Twins "300 times in a row." Fifteen minutes later, in the Twins' clubhouse, Mientkiewicz said it seemed Mulder had beaten the Twins "400 times in a row."

By the time Minnesota squares off against Mulder and the A's in Game 5 of the American League division series today in Network Associates Coliseum, Mulder will have an 800-game winning streak against the Twins.

For the record, Mulder was 4-2 with a 2.16 earned-run average in eight career starts against the Twins going into Game 2 of this series, when he limited Minnesota to one run and five hits in six innings of a 9-1 Oakland victory. But to the Twins, Mulder might as well be the second coming of Sandy Koufax.

"We are going up against the best pitcher in our league," Mientkiewicz said of Mulder, who went 19-7 with a 3.47 ERA this season. "Hopefully he'll let us win one for a change."

Mulder didn't have his best stuff in Game 2, but he found a cooperative group of Twins, who swung at pitches out of the strike zone and often took him off the hook.

"We have to do some things different against Mulder," Twin center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We have to watch some videotapes, make some adjustments. But he's human. He's not a robot."

Mulder, like Game 4 starter Tim Hudson, will be starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career, "but I don't have any problem with it," Mulder said. "With the adrenaline that gets going for the playoffs, it's not going to make a bit of difference whether it's two days or three days or four days."

The A's are certain they have the right guy on the mound.

"I just hope he has one more big game left in him," Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said. "Everyone said from the beginning of the year that if we win, it will be because of our pitchers. If these guys don't carry us, we're not going to go very far."


After Mientkiewicz homered in the seventh inning Saturday, he crossed the plate and pointed to his wife, Jodi, in the crowd.

"She's losing her mind," Mientkiewicz said. "She can't take much more of this. I told her, 'Hopefully we'll stick around some more.' "

The Twins are 5-0 when facing elimination at the Metrodome in the postseason. They'll try to win another elimination game today, but in Oakland.

"We've been through hell and back together, and everybody makes a big thing about our backs being against the wall," Mientkiewicz said. "Our backs have been against the wall since pretty much the day we were born in this group, so this is nothing new for us."

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