YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Athletics Eliminate All Doubt

Oakland, 0-9 in potential division series-clinching games since 2000, ends `curse' with 8-3 win over Twins to complete a sweep.

October 07, 2006|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — That was no mere hurdle the Oakland Athletics cleared Friday. It was more like a crocodile-infested moat, which the A's swam across without incurring so much as a scratch, giving them a clear shot at the castle.


Nine times since 2000, the A's stood on the brink of the American League Championship Series, only to lose all nine potential division series-clinching games, sometimes in bizarre or horrifying fashion.

The 10th time was a charm.

Oakland broke open a tight game with four unearned runs in the seventh inning, a rally highlighted by Marco Scutaro's three-run double, to beat Minnesota, 8-3, at McAfee Coliseum, completing a three-game sweep of the Twins and giving the A's their first league championship berth since 1992.

Oakland, which lost five-game division series to the Yankees in 2000 and 2001, the Twins in 2002 and the Red Sox in 2003, will open the ALCS Tuesday against Detroit or New York, the Yankees playing host to Game 1 if they advance and the A's playing host to Game 1 if the Tigers advance.

"The 2000 jinx, the curse, whatever you want to call it, it's dead, it's out the door," Oakland first baseman Nick Swisher, his voice hoarse from a raucous postgame celebration, screamed amid a champagne- and beer-soaked clubhouse.

"I was sick of hearing about the curse before, and I'm still sick about it now. It's over. It's done. Now you guys can stop asking those totally stupid questions."

Imagine how Swisher would have felt had he actually played in those previous series, two of which ended in elimination despite Oakland's winning the first two games.

Swisher, who drew a key bases-loaded walk before Scutaro's double down the right-field line in the seventh, is in his second year with the A's and wasn't around for those previous playoff disasters.

Only two players -- third baseman Eric Chavez and pitcher Barry Zito -- experienced the bitter taste of every one of those nine division series defeats, and Chavez played a prominent role Friday in extricating that very hefty primate from the A's backs.

After starting an inning-ending double play to help starter Dan Haren (two runs, nine hits, six innings) escape a two-on, one-out jam in the first, Chavez ended an 0-for-8 skid by blasting a Brad Radke pitch into the right-field seats for Oakland's first run in the second.

Scutaro doubled in another run in the second, and Milton Bradley ripped a two-run homer to center in the third for a 4-0 lead. Bradley also came up with the defensive play of the game, gunning down Torii Hunter at the plate after Rondell White's sixth-inning single to help stem a Twins rally.

"You want to be happy, but there's still a long way to go," Chavez said. "I'm trying to stay subdued, because there's more to accomplish. I don't want to feel like this is the finish line."

Chavez has played on teams with more talent -- the 2006 club, he said, is "not even close" to the 2001 team, which featured Jason Giambi, who won the AL most valuable player award in 2000; Miguel Tejada, the 2002 MVP, and a trio of ace pitchers known as the Big Three, Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.

"But of all the other years, this was team baseball," Chavez said. "We don't have the Big Three, Giambi or Tejada. We're just a good, balanced team that played tremendous baseball from day one. Everyone contributed."

It took that kind of effort to defeat one of the hottest teams in baseball, a Twins team that stormed back from 10 1/2 games behind on Aug. 7 to win the AL Central but seemed to have little left in the tank for the playoffs.

Hunter's ill-advised dive turned a Mark Kotsay single into a two-run, inside-the-park home run in Game 2, Minnesota made three errors that helped the A's score five unearned runs Friday, and the Twins went one for 19 with runners in scoring position in the series and did not hold a lead in any of the three games.

"Everybody has bad ballgames," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We picked a bad time to have some bad ballgames."


Los Angeles Times Articles