MINNESOTA 4, ATLANTA 3 IN MINNESOTA (11 INNINGS)
Date: Saturday, October 26.
Batting stars: Kirby Puckett was 3-for-4 with a home run (his fourth), a triple, a stolen base, two runs, and three RBIs. Scott Leius was 2-for-3. Shane Mack was 2-for-4 with a double.
Pitching stars: Scott Erickson pitched six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks and striking out two. Carl Willis pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one. Rick Aguilera pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits.
Opposition stars: Steve Avery pitched six innings, giving up three runs on six hits and one walk and striking out three. Terry Pendleton was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, his second. Mark Lemke was 2-for-4. Mike Stanton pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out one. Alejandro Pena struck out two in two perfect innings.
The game: The Braves put men on first and second in the first inning but did not score. In the bottom of the first, Chuck Knoblauch singled, Puckett had an RBI triple, and Mack hit a run-scoring single to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Mack led off with a double. A one-out error put men on second and third, but Junior Ortiz struck out and Greg Gagne grounded to second. It cost the Twins, as in the fifth Rafael Belliard singled and Pendleton hit a two-run homer, tying the score 2-2. The Twins did go back into the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Dan Gladden singled, stole second, went to third on a fly ball, and scored on Puckett's sacrifice fly, putting Minnesota up 3-2.
The lead lasted until the seventh. Lemke singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Lonnie Smith walked and Pendleton got an infield single, loading the bases. A forceout brought home a run, tying the score, but David Justice struck out to end the inning with the score tied at three. In the eighth Puckett singled and stole second, but he was the only man to get past first in regulation, so the game went to extra innings.
Pendleton led off the tenth with a single but was erased on a line drive double play. Sid Bream led off the eleventh with a single but pinch-runner Keith Mitchell was thrown out trying to steal second.
The Twins, meanwhile, had not had a baserunner since Puckett's single in the eighth. Now, in the eleventh, Puckett came up again. On a 2-1 count, he hit a pitch into the left-center field seats. The game belonged to the Twins, and the series would go to game seven.
WP: Aguilera (1-1). LP: Charlie Liebrandt (0-2). S: None.
Notes: With Erickson pitching, Ortiz was once again behind the plate. Despite the fact that it was an eleven-inning game, the Twins did not use much of their bench. Brian Harper pinch-hit for Ortiz in the seventh and stayed in the game at catcher. Mike Pagliarulo pinch-hit for Leius in the ninth and stayed in the game at third base.
I will always think of this as The Kirby Puckett Game. He was involved in every run the Twins scored. He drove in the first one with a triple, scored the second one, drove in the third one with a sacrifice fly, and of course provided the fourth one with a home run. In addition, he made the tremendous catch of Ron Gant's fly ball in the third inning, going half-way up the plexiglass to come down with it. We later found out that he had made the famous "jump on my back" statement, and then went out and actually made it happen. He pretty much dominated the game as much as it's possible for a non-pitcher to dominate a game. Just incredible.
Memory is a funny thing. I remember a really good leaping catch of a line drive made by the Twins' third baseman. Memory had said that it was made by Pagliarulo, and that it had come with men on base, saving at least one run. As I look at the play-by-play, though, I only see one lineout to third base. It came in the second inning, so the catch had to be made by Leius. And it came off the bat of Brian Hunter leading off the inning, so it did not actually save a run in the traditional sense, although obviously we'll never know what would've happened had it been a double down the line. I'm still pretty sure it was a good catch, though.
I have to feel a little sorry for Charlie Liebrandt. He had a solid career--fourteen seasons, 140-119, 3.71, 1.32 WHIP--and yet the main thing he's remembered for is giving up Puckett's home run. Such is baseball, and such is life, I guess.
Lemke was now 9-for-19 with a double and three triples.
It was an incredible game, and I really don't feel that I did it justice here. But at any rate, the Twins had tied the series 3-3. The next game would decide it. The Twins would have Jack Morris on the mound, going against John Smoltz.
Record: The Twins were tied 3-3 in the best-of-seven series.