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AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Time for Twins to Raise White Hankie

They lavish praise on the Angels, and Hawkins questions whether manager burned out the bullpen.

October 14, 2002|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

The relief the Minnesota Twins sought throughout the American League championship series arrived in those frantic final moments while the Angels celebrated and reality set in at Edison Field.

Players left the railing of the dugout steps slowly Sunday as a crowd of 44,835 banged Thunder Stix in applauding the first-time AL champions, who eliminated the bullpen-drained Twins with a 13-5 victory in Game 5.

The Angels' 10-run seventh inning against three relievers summed up the story of the series for the Twins, who repeatedly turned to their bullpen for help it failed to provide against the Angels. Fatigue could have been a factor, considering Manager Ron Gardenhire leaned on the group when the best-of-seven series shifted West, but even the Twins said they were overmatched.

Relief came in believing the Angels are just that good, enabling the Twins to leave the red-covered Southland with peace of mind that eluded them on the field.

"Man, those guys are really good," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "They've got a good squad, and they did their thing against our bullpen. Our guys have been great all year, we've got one of the best bullpens in the league, but those guys are hot.

"They make contact, they get the [bloopers] to get 'em started, and the next thing you know, they start to hit the ball hard and go deep. Everything they hit was in the right spot the whole series. We might have made some mistakes, but they capitalized on every one of them. They were just the better team and showed it."

The Angels had enough showstopping moments to fill multiple highlight packages, or blooper shows from the Twins' perspective.

Johan Santana, LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero and Bob Wells were on the spot in the 10-hit, 15-batter seventh Sunday, capping the bullpen's failure in a record-setting meltdown. The Twins matched the 1929 Chicago Cubs and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals in giving up the most runs during an inning in postseason history, acknowledging they were as demoralized as they seemed.

"It was shocking because we've been pitching so well," said closer Eddie Guardado, who recording a save in Game 1 at the Metrodome in his only appearance.

"But we just didn't execute this series. We didn't get our job done, plain and simple, and we all know it."

Minnesota relievers had the league's fourth-lowest earned-run average at 3.68. That number increased to 4.41 in an AL division series victory over the favored Oakland Athletics and ballooned to 13.50 against the Angels. The bullpen gave up 19 hits and 16 earned runs.

"In that lineup, you don't see many holes," Minnesota designated hitter David Ortiz said. "Our bullpen is one of the best bullpens in the whole league, but they hit our best pitchers.

"Whenever they hit the ball the ball was finding holes. You see what they did against our bullpen. That shows you nobody can predict what's going to happen in this game."

Hawkins said Sunday's results were predictable because Gardenhire burned out the bullpen. The first-year manager used five relievers in the Angels' five-run eighth inning in Game 4, matching an AL championship series record; and Hawkins and Romero, nicknamed "the Rock," appeared in all three games at Anaheim.

Gardenhire put them in a hard place, Hawkins said.

"We were just exhausted," said the setup man, one of the AL's best this year. "Me and JC have been in those situations all year and had success.

"That just wouldn't have happened if we were fresh. They wouldn't have done that against a fresh J.C. Romero or LaTroy Hawkins."

Gardenhire believed he had no choice. "They had snowballs rolling, and you're just trying to stop 'em somehow," he said. "You try to use your matchups that you've done all year long, but it just didn't work out. That team is unbelievable."

And accepting it provided the Twins' relief.

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