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BASEBALL PLAYOFF NOTES

Twins, A's Complain About Rock-Hard Field

October 06, 2002|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — When A.J. Pierzynski's grounder through the right side of the infield rolled all the way to the right-field wall for a triple, the Minnesota Twins' catcher had the Oakland Raiders to thank.

The Coliseum changed dramatically when the Raiders returned to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, changing a baseball-only facility into a dual-use stadium that no longer is very baseball friendly.

Soil erosion from Sunday's Raiders-Titans game left parts of the outfield rock hard for the first two games of the AL division series.

Pierzynski's RBI triple in Game 1 on Tuesday looked like a shot on a well-worn miniature golf course that just refuses to stop.

"It's like playing on concrete. It's incredible how fast it is. It's almost faster than the turf in the Metrodome," Pierzynski said.

The infield was not much better.

"The field was horrible," said A's third baseman Eric Chavez. "I know on TV that it didn't look that bad, but it was just awful."

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HAPPY NOT TO BE A MET: Minnesota Twins pitcher Rick Reed was jokingly asked how much he misses playing for the New York Mets.

He was polite in his response.

"I would rather be here having a fabulous year," said Reed, the starter for Friday's Game 3 against Oakland in the AL division series.

He was traded from the Mets on July 30, 2001. New York had an embarrassing 2002 season that ended with a 75-86 record. The Mets were last in the NL East for the first time since 1993 and finished below .500 for the first time in six years. Manager Bobby Valentine was fired Tuesday.

Reed is happy he's still with Minnesota this season.

"I am glad things worked out the way they did," said Reed, who played on the Mets' 2000 World Series team. "I guess I got used to the New York lifestyle. I mean, I am not the kind of guy that goes out and stays out in bars all the time. My wife and I, we got used to it, we loved New York, and right now we are getting to love Minnesota."

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DARK SHADOWS: Outfielders for the A's and Twins struggled to pick up fly balls in the glaring sun in the first two games of the division series, and hitters battled late-inning shadows at the Coliseum.

The starting time of the games was not unusual--both began shortly after 1 p.m.--but the position of the sun in early October caused problems.

Oakland center fielder Terrence Long fell while catching a fly ball in the eighth inning of Tuesday's series opener, and Minnesota's Torii Hunter went to his knees to snare a fly moments later.

"I thought I was dead. The sun was deadly out there. I lost it completely and I could never refind it. I just put up my glove to protect myself," Hunter said.

For hitters, it was tough seeing pitches that started on a sunny mound and ended in the shadows around the plate. That made it crucial to score runs early.

"I could see the eighth and ninth innings were going to be affected by the shadows, and I was hoping we could get some runs before that took place," A's manager Art Howe said.

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MORALE BOOSTER: A late rally had the Atlanta Braves feeling better about themselves, even though they lost Game 1 of the NL division series.

Trailing 8-2, Gary Sheffield hit a solo homer and Javy Lopez added a two-run shot in the eighth inning to get the Braves close.

In the ninth, Atlanta put the first two runners on against Giants closer Robb Nen, but Julio Franco flied out and Sheffield grounded into a game-ending double play.

"Hitting a home run in the postseason is the best thing you can do, especially when your team is trying to rally to win the game," said Lopez, who got a second chance when San Francisco catcher Benito Santiago dropped a popup.

"We didn't come out with a win," Lopez added, "but we'll take this good feeling with us into tomorrow's game."

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GIANTS ROTATION: While the Braves are going with a three-man rotation in the opening round of the playoffs, San Francisco plans to use four starters.

Livan Hernandez (12-16, 4.38 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Game 4 at Pac Bell Park on Sunday.

"That's the plan," manager Dusty Baker said. "But we could change our minds."

Russ Ortiz pitched well in Wednesday's opener, won by the Giants 8-5. Kirk Rueter will go in Game 2, followed by Jason Schmidt when the series shifts to San Francisco.

Hernandez is best remembered for a three-hit, 15-strikeout performance while pitching for Florida against the Braves in the 1997 NL championship series. He was named MVP of the both the NLCS and the World Series.

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JOB SEARCH: Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph had a three-hour interview Wednesday with Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski about the Tigers' managerial opening.

Randolph met at a Manhattan hotel with Dombrowski and four of his assistants, including Al Kaline and Willie Horton about the opening before New York played Game 2 of the AL division series against Anaheim.

"We'll wait and see what happens," Randolph said. "It was a very productive day."

The Tigers fired Luis Pujols on Monday after he was 55-100 after replacing Phil Garner in April.

The Tigers will also interview San Diego Padres first-base coach Alan Trammell, a former star shortstop with the Tigers; Bruce Fields, who managed at Triple-A Toledo the past two seasons; and Oakland bench coach Ken Macha.

Randolph estimates that he has interviewed for six or seven openings in recent years.

"I've been through it before," Randolph said. "I'm comfortable with the process."

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