- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Oakland Athletics found a great way to quiet that noisy Metrodome hitting home runs both in and out of the park.

Ray Durham led off the game with a sinking liner that let him circle the bases and Scott Hatteberg followed with a drive over the right-field wall, sending the Oakland Athletics past the Minnesota Twins 6-3 yesterday for a 2-1 lead in their American League Division Series.

"There's no reason to be intimidated here baseball is won between the lines," said Oakland's Terrence Long, who had one of four home runs off Twins starter Rick Reed.

Barry Zito struck out eight in six innings to get the victory. Ricardo Rincon pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and Billy Koch closed for the save.

"Winning today was huge," left fielder David Justice said. "Now we know at worst, if we lose tomorrow, we go home and play in front of our crowd again."

Game 4 of the best-of-5 series is today, with Tim Hudson starting for the A's against Eric Milton.

Game 3 drew 55,932 a Metrodome playoff record. Fans loudly cheered and twirled their Homer Hankies before the Twins' first home postseason game since the 1991 World Series. Oakland turned down the volume in a hurry, though, and handed the Twins only their second loss in 13 postseason games at the ballpark.

The shots by Durham and Hatteberg marked the first time in postseason history a team has hit back-to-back homers to start a game.

Torii Hunter had two of Minnesota's eight hits and capped a game-tying, two-run rally in the fifth with an RBI single. The All-Star center fielder, however, was the one who let Durham's liner skid under his glove.

"I wish I would have made that play, man," Hunter said.

Jermaine Dye's homer in the top of the sixth made it 4-3 Oakland, and the A's bumped their lead back to three in the seventh against Johan Santana.

Randy Velarde, pinch-hitting for Hatteberg, hit an RBI double to score Durham, and moved to third on the throw home. Velarde scored on Miguel Tejada's sacrifice fly off Mike Jackson.

Zito (1-0), whose AL-high 23 victories make him a leading Cy Young Award candidate, was 8-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his final 10 regular-season starts. He didn't have his best stuff giving up five hits, three runs and four walks but his teammates provided plenty of offense and he worked his way out of several jams.

"I'm very lucky," said Oakland manager Art Howe. "I have three of them who do this on a regular basis."

Zito, effectively using his high fastball more than his signature curve, squandered a 3-0 lead. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth after Dye gave Oakland the lead back in the top of the inning with a leadoff homer that chased Reed.

"My job is to keep us in the game," Reed said, "and I did that until the sixth inning. Our guys battled back against a tough pitcher, and then I gave the game away. I'm taking full responsibility for this one."

Reed (0-1), one of only two Twins pitchers with prior postseason experience, threw 100 pitches and surrendered six hits, four runs and two walks while striking out eight.

Zito started with three hitless innings, but the Twins slowly chipped away taking nearly every at-bat deep into the count.

Oakland escaped unscathed from a shaky second, an inning where the A's seemed to get rattled by the noise and the baseball-colored ceiling that makes it so tough to track balls in the air. Hunter hit an easy one-out popup between first and second, but Mark Ellis and Hatteberg collided and let the ball drop for an error on Hatteberg.

Hunter moved up on Zito's wild pitch that slipped out of his hand and landed about 20 feet in front of the mound. Two walks loaded the bases with two outs, but after a conversation with pitching coach Rick Peterson, Zito struck out Luis Rivas to end it.

"I don't take things like that to heart," Zito said of the dropped popup. "You let that affect you, you're not going to last very long."

Zito's teammates are used to a good battle from him.

"He kept us in the game," Long said. "That's what our starting pitchers do even when they don't have their best stuff."

A.J. Pierzynski hit a blooper to shallow center that Tejada nearly caught over his shoulder but glanced off his glove for a single that scored Hunter and made it 3-1.

In the fifth, Jacque Jones walked and scored on Corey Koskie's triple. With two outs Hunter, smacked a single up the middle to drive in Koskie and tie it at 3.

The Twins refused to pout, though, knowing there's still a chance.

"I've never been a part of a team with the 25 dumbest guys in the world," Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Some of us don't have the brain capacity to get down."

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