A's concentrate on clinching in Oakland

Focus is on Game 3

OAKLAND -- The Minnesota Twins did not flunk history.

They know what the Oakland Athletics are up against as far as their past. The Athletics insist they are not thinking about it. But the Twins believe they can put it into their heads with a victory in Game 3 on Friday in their American League Division Series.

"No question," Twins designated hitter Phil Nevin said after Thursday's workout at McAfee Coliseum. "One win tomorrow means a lot. I'm not saying it evens up the series, but I think it puts the heat on them. Then they know they've got to get [Saturday's game], because they know there's a difference going twice against [Johan] Santana in the Dome. But we need to take care of business tomorrow."

The Athletics, having won the first two games in Minnesota to take a 2-0 series lead, have been in this position before. Nine times, if you're scoring at home, in four Division Series.

In four Division Series from 2000-03, the Athletics have had nine chances to clinch a Division Series and move on to their first American League Championship Series since 1992.

They lost every game.

Most significant was 2001. The Athletics won two straight over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium and just needed to win one more at home, a situation that parallels this series. But the Yankees won three straight.

"I don't even remember that," said third baseman Eric Chavez, who recently has had ample opportunity to recall it since the A's inability to close out a Division Series has become the predominant theme of this best-of-five affair.

"We have hard-nosed players who know how to play the game," Chavez said. "I don't think anybody, whether they've been in this position or not, will take the game lightly. Just play baseball."

The Athletics also won the first two games in Oakland in 2003 against the Red Sox, only to lose two straight at Fenway and Game 5 back at the Coliseum.

But relief pitcher Justin Duchscherer said, "It's a lot harder for them to win three in a row than for us to win one in a row."

That would seem to be a correct assumption, but the A's recent playoff history doesn't support that.

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"I like the way our guys are doing it," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "They are pretty focused. I think these guys realize how tough it is to win a game.

"Basically, the first two games we played perfect games. We ran the bases right, caught the ball well, pitched well, pitched out of the bullpen well, got some big hits," he said. "We pretty much had to play a perfect game out there, and that will probably be the case tomorrow."

Long ago, with guys like Jim "Catfish" Hunter and Dave Stewart, the Athletics knew how to close out a series. After moving to Oakland in 1968, the A's won 11 of their first 15 postseason series, resulting in World Series titles in 1972-74 and again in 1989.


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Their last postseason series victory was a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the 1990 ALCS. Then they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series and have now lost six straight postseason series.

"We've got veteran guys here, OK?" Macha said. "Chavez has been through this thing. You've got [Mark] Kotsay, [Jason] Kendall, Frank Thomas, Jay Payton. You've got some veteran guys that understand that every play is important, and I don't think they are giddy at all."

The Twins don't expect the Athletics to feel giddy. They just want to win a game and have them start feeling a little heat. Game 3 could do that.

"I hope so," Twins outfielder Rondell White said. "They won two in a row at our place. There is no reason why we can't win two in a row at their place. If we win tomorrow, it gets more exciting."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.