MINNEAPOLIS — The Angels saw the division series highlights of Oakland first baseman Scott Hatteberg losing a popup in the Metrodome roof and A's second baseman Mark Ellis crashing into Hatteberg on another popup because the two couldn't communicate over the crowd noise.
Tonight, it's their turn to get thrown into the din of the dome, where every fly ball seems to be an adventure. Even Torii Hunter, the Twins' Gold Glove center fielder, said he lost track of five fly balls in the dingy gray roof in Game 4 of the division series before recovering to catch them.
"It's going to be tough," Angel left fielder Darin Erstad said. "You just hope, either way, that the game isn't decided on a play like that."
Erstad, who wears amber-colored glasses in hopes of creating more of a contrast between the ball and the roof, has had a tough enough time tracking fly balls when the stadium is empty, much less doing that with 56,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs.
The key, Erstad said, is to remain aggressive yet calm, to know what territory you're responsible for, and to rely on hand gestures instead of your voice to communicate with teammates.
"I'm going to be waving like a mad man out there," Erstad said. "The biggest thing is you can't take your eye off the ball. You have to get to a spot where you want to catch it early and trust your read.
"If you lose it, you can't panic. You've got to stay calm, be patient, and it will come out."
On drives in the gaps, Erstad needs to be the commander-in-chief.
"You have to understand not only your range, but the guy next to you," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "And it's going to be natural territory where you know a ball's hit that Darin is going to catch or Garret [Anderson, Angel left fielder] is going to catch.
"You have to rely on your instincts and go back to the premise of basic defensive baseball, where the center fielder has priority in the outfield and any outfielder has priority over an infielder on a popup."
Angel second baseman Adam Kennedy has been trying to visualize the conditions, an ear-splitting capacity crowd waving white hankies, but there is no substitute for the actual experience.
"I'm sure it will be crazy," Kennedy said. "You won't be able to hear. You'll have to start looking for people. That's hard, because you don't want to take your eye off the ball."
Tickets for possible World Series games at Edison Field will go on sale Wednesday at 9 a.m., at the ballpark, via the Ticketmaster charge line at (714) 663-9000 and online at www.angelsbaseball.com. Tickets will not be sold at Ticketmaster retail outlets.
Prices range from $60 to $175 per ticket. If the Angels beat Minnesota, they would play host to the first two games of the World Series Oct. 19-20 and, if necessary, the sixth and seventh games Oct. 26-27.
The Angels, gambling that Ramon Ortiz can control his emotions and his fastballs, set up a starting rotation in which he could pitch two games within a caldron of noise in a stadium nicknamed the Homerdome.
Ortiz, who led the majors in home runs allowed, gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in his division series start against the Yankees. In the first inning, he threw 10 balls in 11 pitches at one point and failed to cover third base on one play, allowing Derek Jeter a free base.
Kevin Appier starts here tonight and Ortiz follows Wednesday, with ace Jarrod Washburn starting Game 3 Friday in Anaheim and rookie John Lackey starting Game 4. That would set up Washburn to start a potential seventh game.
The Twins will start Joe Mays and Rick Reed in the two games here, followed by Eric Milton and Brad Radke. Mays did not face the Angels this season, but Reed pitched a three-hitter in a 5-1 victory at Anaheim. Milton no-hit the Angels three years ago; Radke is 11-5 with a 1.72 earned-run average against the Angels.
After major league owners consolidated the administrative functions of the National and American leagues three years ago, abolishing the league presidencies in the process, Commissioner Bud Selig decided that tradition demanded each league have an honorary president.
As honorary president of the American League, Selig appointed Jackie Autry, a former member of the owners' executive council and widow of the Angels' original owner, Gene Autry. Jackie Autry joined in the clubhouse celebration after the Angels' division series victory over the Yankees. If the Angels beat Minnesota, her duty as honorary president would be to present the league championship trophy to the Angels.
Reliever Dennis Cook, told he would not be added to the playoff roster, underwent arthroscopic surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder.... Although teams can make changes on their playoff roster between rounds, the Angels made none. The Twins removed infielder Denny Hocking and reliever Tony Fiore and added infielder David Lamb and reliever Bob Wells. Hocking was spiked during the Twins' victory celebration Sunday, losing the nail and suffering a gash on the middle finger of his right hand; Fiore had a 20.25 ERA in the first round.... The Angels are trying to get Nolan Ryan, who threw four no-hitters during his eight years in Anaheim, to throw out a ceremonial first pitch when the series moves to Edison Field this weekend.