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AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Twins Preaching Patience at the Plate

Minnesota: They shake off suggestion that left-handers are a problem, but they are rethinking their approach.

October 12, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Minnesota Twins aren't hitting much in the American League championship series, struggling against the Angels and searching for answers.

The Twins continued to accentuate the positive after their situation got worse Friday night in a 2-1 loss in Game 3 before 44,234 red-clad fans at Edison Field, focusing on a few things they did well in another frustrating performance.

Inspirational speeches, though, won't help the Twins against an Angel pitching staff that's setting the tone and feeling comfortable at home. The Twins are getting restless, and it may be time to put everything under review.

"Sometimes you can hit and do your job, and sometimes you can't, but we have to start doing better [at the plate]," second baseman Luis Rivas said. "They're pitching great, they've got good pitchers, and we're just not getting hits at the right time.

"We're an aggressive team, and we're always going to keep swinging. But maybe we need to be a little more patient at home plate. Maybe we need to try to get some more walks. We just have to try to hit good pitches."

The Angels aren't making it easy.

The Twins are batting .212 in the series after going six for 35 in Game 3, getting their hits and run against left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn. Setup man Francisco Rodriguez and closer Troy Percival were perfect in the eighth and ninth, respectively.

"They have a great bullpen to go with their starters, so there's not really one guy you want to see come in," right fielder Dustan Mohr said. "We're trying to get that big hit, but they're good. Their people made pitches and plays when we had opportunities to score. That's what's happening."

Not that the Angels' success is surprising.

The staff had the league's second-lowest earned-run average, finishing a hundredth of a point behind the Oakland Athletics. The Twins figured they knew what they would be facing, but the competition has been even better than expected.

"They're just real good," center fielder Torii Hunter. "Washburn doesn't give you too many pitches to hit, and then that bullpen comes in. The young kid [Rodriguez] has got some really good stuff, which we've all seen, then Percival comes in. He's pretty much lights out against us; they're just all doing a good job.

"We needed to get just one hit to get a guy into scoring position. We really needed to do that, but we didn't. But our pitchers are also doing a good job."

Angel hitters are having problems too, batting only .227 through the first three games. However, the Angels are leading, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series, easing their frustration with victory.

That's what the Twins need now, Minnesota Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

"Sure, you'd like to break out and score, but they didn't do that either," the first-year manager said. "Neither team is busting out. In all honesty, when you're facing great pitching, it's really hard to have break-out innings."

Especially when the Twins are facing a left-hander.

They were 23-29 against left-handers during the regular season, batting 30 points lower (.252 to .282) than against right-handers. Beginning play Friday, the Minnesota starting lineup was 18 for 91 (.198) with 19 strikeouts against Washburn. The Twins scoff at speculation that they're intimidated by left-handers, but the statistics indicate there's a problem.

"Well, maybe we got it into the back of our heads that there was a lefty out there tonight, and you know the story about us hitting lefties," closer Eddie Guardado said. "We're also a really aggressive team. You're going to swing at pitches that are out of the strike zone when you're aggressive. You're going to swing at pitchers' pitches, which is what we do.

"We've just got to relax a little bit more. We were just too anxious. When pitchers give you pitches to hit you've got to hit them, so we've got to start relaxing a little bit right now. We still have time, but we're down, so we've got to just relax and hit like we know we can."

If only the Angels would cooperate.

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