MINNEAPOLIS, OCT. 8 -- A night earlier, they'd won with a late rally. This, they said at the time, gives us confidence.
Apparently so, because tonight, they won routinely. The Minnesota Twins got 7 1/3 innings gritty innings from Bert Blyleven and two RBI apiece from Tim Laudner and Dan Gladden to stun the Detroit Tigers again, this time, 6-3, before 55,245 at the Metrodome.
The victory is the second straight for the Twins in a best-of-seven American League Championship Series that will now move to Tiger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5.
Tiger Stadium, with its tall grass and mushy infield dirt and cold, drizzly nights, might look a little like heaven to the Tigers, who sprinted into this series with the best regular season record in the major leagues and were nearly unanimous favorites to dispose quickly of the Twinkies.
But were the Tigers prepared for this? Were they prepared for a franchise-record crowd that roared from the first pitch to the last? Were they prepared for the taunts and chants and banners? Were they prepared for the booming noises from the scoreboard and 50,000 people dancing in the aisles while booming out a Lake Wobegon rendition of "Born in the USA"?
Were they prepared for Laudner, a .191 hitter, to double in two runs off their ace, Jack Morris, in the second inning? Were they prepared to face a team that made the most of every chance, going seven for 13 with runners in scoring position the first two nights?
The Twins were so efficient tonight that they had only nine base runners, and six of them scored. They were so efficient that Morris actually pitched decently, but left with a terrible line -- eight innings, six hits, six earned runs.
Although they did a lot of big things, getting a home run from Kent Hrbek and doubles from Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Laudner, they did some of the little things, too.
For instance, Randy Bush, who never had stolen more than one base in a game, got two tonight. For instance, Gagne scored from first base on Laudner's double.
Morris entered this game with an 18-5 record against the Twins -- 11-0 in the Metrodome and the old Met. A St. Paul native, he left with his first loss and put the Tigers in a hole comparable to trailing the Toronto Blue Jays by 3 1/2 with seven games to play.
Meanwhile, Blyleven was outstanding, breaking off curveball after curveball, allowing six hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings for his first postseason victory in eight years.
He left after Lou Whitaker homered in the eighth, his second in as many nights, and Darrell Evans singled. Twins Manager Tom Kelly went to his bullpen, and Juan Berenguer struck Kirk Gibson out on a 93-mph heater and got Alan Trammell on an infield grounder.
Although he has talked many times against doing such things late in the season, Manager Sparky Anderson juggled his Tigers lineup, using Mike Heath at catcher and Matt Nokes as the designated hitter. Normally, the Tigers use Nokes as the catcher and Bill Madlock as the DH against right-handed pitching, but the switch does two things for the Tigers.
One thing is that it gets a much better defensive catcher into the game. Nokes is not a very good thrower or receiver, and that's important for Morris, who threw a record 24 wild pitches. Minnesota scouts were also sitting at Tiger Stadium last weekend when the Blue Jays stole five bases against Morris and Nokes.
"Mike does a good job with Jack," Anderson said. "He blocks his pitches in the dirt. It's a defensive move."
It's also a move to get Madlock out of the lineup. It was two weeks ago tonight he collided with Toronto shortstop Tony Fernandez. Fernandez broke his elbow on the play, but, as it turns out, Madlock sprained two fingers on his left hand. He's only seven for his last 31 (.225) and has struck out six times in his last 12 at-bats.
He plans to have a Detroit doctor examine the fingers Friday when the Tigers return home, but said he would have played tonight, if asked. He laughed today when he remembered the night of the injury.
"I knew I hurt my hand that night," he said, "but I thought they'd be okay. I also didn't want to get have it X-rayed in Toronto. I wasn't too popular up there that night. But it hasn't gotten any better since then. I'll do whatever the doctor recommends. If he says I ought to get a shot, fine."
The thinking may have been sound, but it didn't appear to help the Tigers much. First, Heath left a runner on third with one out in the second inning, and in the fourth Bush walked and stole second and third against Nokes.
The Tigers did score first. That was in the second when Nokes singled and scored on Chet Lemon's homer over the left field wall.
The lead lasted about 10 minutes. In the bottom of the second, Gaetti got a one-out double. Bush popped up, but Brunansky doubled to score Gaetti. Gagne walked, and Laudner doubled down the left field line. Brunansky scored easily and Gagne hustled home with a 3-2 lead.
The Twins scored twice more to make it 5-2 in the fourth. Bush led off with a single, and, with Brunansky batting, he stole second and third. Morris walked Brunansky and Gagne to load the bases with one out.
He struck out Laudner for the second out, but Morris left another pitch over the middle of the plate. Gladden slapped it to left for a two-run single.
Hrbek homered in the fifth to make it 6-2, and that was more than enough for Blyleven.
After the Tigers left Pat Sheridan on third in the second, Blyleven didn't allow another runner to reach second until the eighth.
That was when Whitaker homered with one out and Whitaker singled. But Berenguer got out of the inning. A Fan's Response
United Press International
MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 8 -- Some fans tumble over upper-level railings in pursuit of a baseball souvenir. But in Game 2 of the American League playoffs Thursday night, Denny Yaider took the ball he recovered in the left field stands -- a two-run homer by Detroit's Chet Lemon in the second inning -- and defiantly hurled it to the Metrodome's artificial turf.
"It gives the Twins a lift and that's what it's all about," said Yaider, 28, an airline employe who lives in Minneapolis but works in Rochester, Minn. "We have to help everything we can."
The act of fan defiance originated years ago with the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It has cropped up in a few other parks since, but as recently as Wednesday night a Twins fan had refused to "throw it back."