Minnesota Twins—2002 American League Championship Series

When asked what was working for Joe Mays in the opening game of the 2002 American League Championship Series, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire replied, “Take less time if I tell you what wasn’t working.“

Over the last month and a half of the regular season, Mays had been alternating between good and bad in his starting assignments. Against the Oakland Athletics in the Division Series, Mays had been hit hard. Following the pattern, Mays then came back with an outstanding performance against the Anaheim Angels, leading the Twins to a 2-1 victory at the Metrodome in Minnesota and the lead in the best-of-seven series.

“Joe certainly set the tone, getting the first out like he does,“ Gardenhire said. We call that halfway’ in Minnesota. You get the first out in an inning, I know there’s three, but we still call that halfway.“

Mays, according to the Gardenhire math, found him halfway through the inning after only one batter each inning as the Angels failed to get a leadoff man aboard the entire game. Mays gave up a one-out single to Darin Erstad, who was wiped out on a double play, in the first and retired Anaheim in order in the second.

Minnesota got on the board in the bottom of the second when Torii Hunter doubled to right-center and went to third on a wild pitch. Hunter held as Doug Mientkiewicz fouled out to third-baseman Troy Glaus and Michael Cuddyer walked, then came home with the first run of the game on A. J. Pierzynski’s fly to Erstad in center. Righthander Kevin Appier struck out Luis Rivas, finishing the inning on his 41st pitch of the game, only 20 of which were strikes to that point.

The Angels mounted a two-out rally in the third, on singles by Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein, but looked like they’d come up empty when Erstad hit a grounder to short. However, the ball went through the legs of Cristian Guzman, and Eckstein scored from second on the error. Over the next five innings, Mays allowed only a two-out single to Brad Fullmer in the fourth.

Appier wasn’t as sharp, although he kept the Angels in the game. “Ape worked for every out he got,“ said Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia after the game. “It seemed like he stepped up and made some pitches when things got hot.“ A few of those pitches came in the fourth after David Ortiz led off with a single and, after a sacrifice by Hunter, Mienkiewicz walked. Appier got Cuddyer to fly out to right and Pierzynski to pop out to end the inning.

To start the fifth, however, Appier issued his third walk of the game, to Luis Rivas. After Jacque Jones flied out, Guzman lined a single to center and Corey Koskie followed with a line-drive double down the right-field line to score Rivas. “It was an off-speed pitch,“ said Koskie. “I was trying to get something up in the zone because he’s pretty good when he gets the ball down.“

Koskie’s double put runners at second and third with one out, but Appier escaped further damage by getting David Ortiz to foul out to first baseman Scott Spiezio and striking out Hunter on a full count, getting him to chase a pitch in the dirt.

Appier, with 95 pitches through five innings, gave way to Brendan Donnelly, who pitched a perfect sixth and got the first two batters in the seventh before hitting Guzman with a pitch. Scott Schoeneweis—the lone lefty in the Angels’ bullpen—finished out the inning by getting Koskie to fly to right. Switch-hitter Bobby Kielty was sent up to hit for Ortiz to start the eighth, and Schoeneweis retired him on a fly to right. Ben Weber then came in and struck out Hunter and Mientkiewicz.

The Twins took their 2-1 lead into the ninth, and Gardenhire brought in Eddie Guardado to finish it off. Mays had delivered 99 pitches in what he called “the game of my career“ and had been asked how he was feeling by pitching coach Rick Anderson in the last of the eighth. “I said, I feel great. I’ll go out there and close this out if you like me to. But Eddie’s been doing it all year, that’s his job.’ I gave him the option.

“It took me a little longer to loosen up in the eighth inning. That was the only reason I gave him that option. Otherwise, I would have told him I was ready to go back out there.“

It took Guardado 23 pitches to do it, but he closed the Angels out in the ninth. Guardado walked Tim Salmon with one out but then retired Garret Anderson on a fly to right and finished off an eight-pitch at-bat by getting Glaus to look at a third strike to end the game.

Minnesota took the lead in the series and sent righthander Rick Reed to the mound in Game Two, against Anaheim’s Russ Ortiz. The Angels, hoping to tie the series and gain the home-field edge as the series would then shift to Anaheim for the next three games. Ortiz had given up 40 home runs during the regular season, including three to Minnesota in his only start against the Twins, a 5-1 loss in Anaheim in May.

Reed, who had been one of Minnesota’s steadiest starters during the final part of the regular-season, had been tagged for four homers by the Oakland Athletics in his previous start, in the Division Series. His woes with the gopher ball continued against Anaheim. With one out in the first, Erstad, on an 0-2 pitch, turned on a two-seam fast ball that came back over the plate. The result was a home run over the right-field fence to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.

Glaus started the second by grounding a single to right and stopped at third as Fullmer lined a double to right-center. Spiezio then hit a pop fly down the right-field line that fell in front of Cuddyer. Glaus scored on the play but Fullmer, who had to hold up to see if the ball would drop or be caught, had to stop at third as Spiezio pulled into second with a double.

Reed looked like he might escape without any more runs being scored. Bengie Molina flied to shallow right as Fullmer held, and Kennedy hit a grounder toward the right side that Reed snagged. Fullmer had already broken for the plate and was an easy out as Reed tossed home. Spiezio went to third on the play. With David Eckstein at bat, Kennedy got caught leaning the wrong way as Reed made a pickoff throw to first. As Kennedy started for second, Spiezio took off from third and Mientkiewicz fired home. His throw was slightly behind Pierzynski, who caught it and tried a swipe tag on Spiezio, who stayed on his feet as he crossed the plate. In doing so, Spiezio knocked the ball out of Pierzynski’s glove and scored as Kennedy went to third. Pierzynski was charged with the error with Mientkiewicz and Reed getting assists on the play (and Spiezio being charged with a caught stealing). Eckstein, after falling behind in the count, 0-2, fouled off three pitches before dumping a single to right to bring in Kennedy.

The Twins’ inability to execute on the pickoff play had cost them two runs and left them trailing, 4-0. In the last of the third, Minnesota found itself on the receiving end of a successful pickoff, Luis Rivas being caught off first by Ortiz after a leadoff hit. Minnesota also got leadoff singles in the fourth and fifth, by David Ortiz and Pierzynski, respectively, but in each case the next batter grounded into a double play.

Reed settled down after the three-run second, but Gardenhire had his bullpen active as early as the fifth, even though Reed had made only 59 pitches through four innings and needed only nine more to put down the Angels in the fifth. “When you’re down 4-0, you try not to get any deeper than that,“ he explained after the game. “You get in that situation, you don’t want to get down too many runs.“

Johan Santana was up in the bullpen again in the sixth, and was brought in after the Angels struck quickly for two more runs. With one out, Glaus tripled down the right-field line and Fullmer homered to left-center, making the score 6-0.

Minnesota finally broke through off Ortiz in the sixth. Guzman opened with a double and scored on a single by Koskie. Ramon Ortiz struck out David Ortiz, but then gave up a double to Hunter. Koskie stopped at third, but both runners scored when Mientkiewicz grounded a single up the middle. That was all for Ortiz as Donnelly entered the game and struck out Cuddyer. Pierzynski hit a soft liner toward right but Kennedy was able to get back from his second-base position and catch the drive for the third out.

Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels’ hard-throwing young righthander, was on the mound in the last of the seventh and retired Rivas, Jones, and Guzman. He got the first two outs in the eighth before walked Hunter and giving up a single to Mientkiewicz. Scioscia then went to his bullpen ace, Troy Percival.

Kielty came out to hit for Cuddyer and gave Percival a battle. Against fastballs of more than 95 miles an hour, Kielty fell behind, one ball and two strikes, then stayed alive by fouling off two pitches as Percival tried to bring the heat higher in the zone each time. “I was trying to climb the ladder against him, and he kept fouling off,“ Percival said. “He was right on it. I knew I had to brush him back off the plate or come up with something off speed.“ Percival went with the latter option. “It was a change up. I said, I’m going to try to throw it in. If he does see it out of my hand, the only thing he’s going to do is pull it foul.’ It came back nice over the inside corner.“ Kielty disagreed with Percival’s last statement, looking at the pitch and getting called out on strikes by plate umpire Mike Everitt.

Percival struck out two more batters in the ninth, finishing off a 6-3 win for the Angels.

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