10/04/06 7:53 PM ET
Mailbag: Can A's hold on to momentum?
Scott Merkin answers fans' questions about the ALDS
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Of course, if you root for the A's, then this 2-0 ALDS lead brings back a familiar feeling that isn't all together positive. Oakland lost its last two 2-0 ALDS leads and the respective series to the Yankees and Red Sox, but looks to change history on Friday back at home.
For now, we will open up the ALDS mailbag and look at questions regarding the events unfolding from the first two games of the exciting series between the Twins and A's.
Why is Torii Hunter diving for a ball with two outs, and more importantly, a line drive to center with no one backing him up?
-- Troy, Fargo, N.D.
Troy, have you watched Hunter play defense before? He didn't win five Gold Gloves by playing it safely out there. With that assessment made, even Hunter admitted he probably shouldn't have dove on Mark Kotsay's line drive, but then again, he fully believed the catch was going to be made from the moment he started running.
Although I haven't been watching baseball as long as some of my esteemed colleagues, Hunter ranks right up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime and Ichiro Suzuki as the best defensive outfielders of our time. I also give him credit for standing up and taking on all the questions after what had to be a heartbreaking loss.
The way he handled the miscue and the way in which the Twins handled the setback could be a good sign for Minnesota in Oakland.
"He's going all out, and he's made those plays before," Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer said of Hunter. "He took a chance and it didn't work. Sometimes it happens."
"This thing ain't over until they win three," Minnesota closer Joe Nathan added.
Can the Twins win three in a row?
-- Alyssa, Cedar, Minn.
Alyssa, any team with a 71-35 record since June 8 and an exceptional pitching staff has the ability to win 10 in a row, let alone three. As we sit here right now, though, the A's seem like the better playoff team. They are doing the little things and not making mistakes.
If that scenario doesn't change, the Twins could be heading home on Saturday.
What happened to the Twins' bats? Yes, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer hit homers today, but Luis Castillo, Nick Punto and all the other "piranhas" did nothing but ground out and strike out when it mattered. It seems like the Twins picked a bad time to go on a hitting slump. What can they do to turn things around?
-- Steve, Minneapolis
Instead of blaming it all on Twins hitters, I think credit has to be given to Oakland pitching -- although I was talking with some of my MLB.com colleagues as to how Castillo's three called third strikes certainly was not the prototypical result for a leadoff man. It's not so much the groundouts and the strikeouts plaguing the Twins, but more the time at which the ground outs and the strikeouts are coming. Oakland is playing great situational baseball, and the Twins are not.
Is there a chance Jason Tyner will play left field during the playoffs? This will allow Rondell White to DH and get another bat in the lineup. Phil Nevin isn't the answer at DH.
-- Josh J., Edina, Minn.
Josh, a number of Twins fans were down on Nevin after one 0-for-3 playoff showing, but I certainly don't think he was even in the top five reasons as to why the Twins lost Game 1. Look for Tyner to play the next two games (if necessary), though, with right-handers Dan Haren and Rich Harden pitching.
Tyner will continue to serve as the designated hitter, unless White is considered too much of a defensive liability in left.
All year long, I've wondered why the Twins don't use Mike Redmond as designated hitter or as a pinch-hitter (Friday night in the ninth, for example)? Why have Nevin, at .215, when we have a great hitter at .345 sitting? I don't understand!
-- Steve, Charlotte, N.C.
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It's virtually impossible to use your second catcher as the designated hitter -- although, now that I think about it, I guess Ron Gardenhire has employed Mauer in that role from time to time. But if Mauer had to leave the game and Redmond replaced him, then the Twins would lose the designated hitter's spot and the pitcher would have to hit. For the record, I asked Kelly Thesier, MLB.com's Twins beat writer, who was the Twins' emergency catcher, and the answer was Morneau.
You don't want a situation in the playoffs where Morneau has to catch.
Will the Athletics beat Minnesota and go even farther?
-- Nate, Danville, Calif.
Nate, I think the A's will beat the Twins in four games. I also think they will lose to the Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
Have you seen any celebrities during the first two games of this series?
-- Lisa, New York
Lisa, I ran into TC, the Minnesota mascot bear, before the game. But that's about it. Kirby Puckett's two kids threw out the first pitch Tuesday, and they would deservedly be considered royalty in Minneapolis.
There appears to be enough celebrities in New York to fill out all four of the series.
Have you been impressed by Marco Scutaro's play during the first two games of the series?
-- Tammi, Oakland
The Oakland shortstop has been an unsung hero for the A's during these two victories. Not only has he played phenomenal defense, but he also has driven in two big runs. His ground ball to second, following Nick Swisher's leadoff double in the ninth, not only led to an important insurance run but also pointed out one of the main reasons why the A's have won the first two games of this series.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.