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A's Stay Inside to Beat Twins, 5-2

Kotsay hits an inside-the-park homer as Hunter fails to make tough catch, helping Oakland take a 2-0 series lead at Metrodome.

October 05, 2006|From the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Playing it safe? Not Torii Hunter's style. That's why he has five Gold Gloves.

Trying to make a tough catch right after his Minnesota teammates tied the game with back-to-back home runs, Hunter missed -- and Oakland took advantage.

Mark Kotsay circled the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park homer after Hunter's ill-advised dive for a sinking line drive, lifting the Athletics over the Twins, 5-2, on Wednesday for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

"It was the worst feeling in the world. You can't do anything about it," said Hunter, who blamed himself for the defeat.

Oakland has arrived at yet another elimination game. The perennial playoff underperformers are 0-9 in those since 2000, losing four straight first-round series.

"This team knows what to do," said Eric Chavez, a regular on all four of those clubs. "We're hard-nosed baseball players that like to play the game. I don't think anybody here, regardless if they've been in this position, is going to take Game 3 lightly."

The series shifts west Friday, with Twins right-hander Brad Radke taking his broken shoulder socket to the mound for possibly the final appearance of his 12-year career.

Dan Haren, in his first postseason start, will pitch for the Athletics.

Oakland starter Esteban Loaiza slipped in the sixth inning Wednesday, surrendering consecutive solo homers to Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau that evened the game at 2-2.

But with Jason Kendall on first, two out in the seventh and reliever Dennys Reyes pitching, Kotsay hit what should have been a single.

Hunter, bothered by a sore left foot this season, charged forward.

The ball sliced to Hunter's left, and his reach wasn't long enough to get near it.

"There's only one person in this league that can make that catch, and it's Torii," said Cuddyer, who watched from right field. "Although it's as close as you come, he's not Superman."

Added Manager Ron Gardenhire: "When he goes after a ball, I don't second-guess him. Ever."

Minnesota won championships in 1987 and 1991 without winning a single road game in either of those World Series, and the Metrodome -- with the deteriorating, dust-colored ceiling and the din of a sellout crowd -- is a difficult place for opponents.

The advantage seems outdated now. The Twins have lost seven straight at home in the postseason.

The last win was in Game 1 of the 2002 AL Championship Series against the Angels.

Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis broke his right index finger after being hit on the hand while swinging at an inside pitch from Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning. The team didn't say whether he would be able to play when the series resumes in Oakland.

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