- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS | The Minnesota Twins have been here plenty of times before, beating a path through chilly October mornings into their Teflon-topped funhouse of a stadium and knowing they need to find within these walls a way to prevent their season from ending.

It’s almost the stuff of legend at this point: In the 1987 and 1991 World Series - battles that still come up routinely around here because of how many Twins officials and coaches from those days are still with the team - Minnesota came back to the Metrodome for Games 6 and 7, down 3-2 both times after losing three on the road. And both times, the Twins rallied to win a title, celebrating as their fans sent the decibels in the dome to jet-engine levels.

But for all the Metrodome mystique, the reality is Minnesota hasn’t been so good in the postseason at home recently. The Twins have lost their past seven postseason contests at home dating to the 2002 AL Championship Series, and four of those defeats have been doled out by the team that can eliminate them Sunday night: the New York Yankees.

“You know, you guys, the press, you guys love streaks and numbers and all those kinds of things,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This is this year, and we have lost two games, and one really tough one in New York, and we played very well and had an opportunity to win it. We can’t worry about the past. That’s like going back, you know, in ‘91. You can’t do it. It doesn’t do anything for you.”

The Twins return to the Metrodome down 2-0 in the ALDS, needing to win two games at home to send the series back to New York. They also need those two games to avoid their last memory in the Metrodome being one of the Yankees celebrating a series win. The Twins move across downtown into open-air Target Field next April - a terrifying prospect for days such as Saturday, when the streets of Minneapolis were freckled with snowflakes and the temperature hovered below freezing.

To delay that move, they would have to conjure up another round of Metrodome magic.

“Anything to be out of New York, I think, is going to help us,” infielder Brendan Harris said. “We’ve played well at home, especially down the stretch. We’re looking forward to a great atmosphere, some good stuff from [starter Carl Pavano], putting some runs up. It’s hopefully a new day.”

The Metrodome has come to the Twins’ aid already a few times this fall; they have won 10 of their past 11 games at home and constructed their historic rally to win the AL Central title around a few key home wins.

Minnesota was down seven games to Detroit at the beginning of September and took two of three from the Tigers at home that month. They won the second game of the series with the help of the Metrodome’s notorious roof, which routinely causes outfielders to lose routine fly balls. That night, it got the best of Don Kelly.

Then they beat the Tigers in a classic 12-inning, one-game playoff, scoring the decisive run in vintage Twins fashion - an Alexi Casilla bouncer through the hole at second that brought Carlos Gomez home. They became the first team to win a division title after trailing by three games with four to play.

That’s why no Twins player was willing to concede anxiety Saturday. They have, as catcher Joe Mauer put it, had their backs against the wall for several weeks, and climbing out of a 2-0 hole against the Yankees will be no different.

They did, however, miss a golden chance to steal home-field advantage when they blew a 3-1 ninth-inning lead Friday night. The Twins then failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs in the 11th and lost 4-3 on a walk-off homer by Mark Teixeira.

Still, there’s a feeling that the Twins’ resolve hasn’t run out yet and the Metrodome might have one more boost in store for them.

“If you like position-by-position and all those things, they have an advantage,” Gardenhire said. “But you know, there is always the human part of it where our guys are playing with a lot of confidence and a big heart. … We will do what we have had to do for a long time here, and that’s bounce back in front of our fans and our ballpark and see if we can get after these guys.”

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