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Twins Short Hops: Game 1

Twins Short Hops: Game 1

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota won the American League Central behind stellar pitching, air-tight defense, timely hitting and doing the little things to manufacture runs. On Tuesday, they had the pitching but not much else during a 3-2 setback in the Division Series opener.

In < 25 words ...
Johan Santana was super, but Barry Zito was a little better, and the Twins couldn't keep Frank Thomas in the park -- something Ron Gardenhire stressed as a key factor Monday.

Frozen moment
Trailing by one run in the eighth, Jason Bartlett opened the frame with a double to left. After Bartlett was nearly picked off at second on Luis Castillo's pass on a bunt attempt, the bunt apparently was taken off and Castillo grounded out to third baseman Eric Chavez without advancing the runner. The Twins didn't score, and Oakland built on that momentum with an insurance run in the ninth.

Big number
15. The total number of pitches Castillo saw in his first three at-bats. Castillo, who appeared to be a bit more patient than many of the Minnesota hitters against Zito, reached base in those three at-bats.

Game balls (out of five)
Santana, five. Minus one high changeup to Thomas, he was as dominant as ever.

Rondell White, five. He supplied the offense on an afternoon when Zito matched Santana pitch for pitch.

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Castillo, three. Set up the offense by reaching base three times but could not bunt over Bartlett to third with nobody out in the eighth.

Sense of October
Thomas calls the Metrodome one of the most intimidating and decided home-field advantages in all of baseball. So, what's the best way to lessen the noise and take this raucous sellout out of the game? Score two runs in the second inning against arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

Lines of the Game
Hitting
Rondell White
3 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Comment: White looked at seven pitches from Zito in three at-bats, but he apparently had something figured out with the crafty left-hander. Maybe it's simply a case of past history repeating itself, as White had five hits in 14 previous at-bats against Zito.

Be a part of the ALDS mailbag

Who's going to win this series? Who's the best player? Why'd the manager make that move? If game stories and features aren't enough for you and you want more, e-mail MLB.com's Scott Merkin at scott.merkin@mlb.com. After the game, before it, even while the action is going on. Send in your question (make sure the subject line contains ALDS Mailbag), and Merkin will answer selected queries in a regular mailbag right here on MLB.com. Make sure to visit Scott's blog right here throughout the series.

Pitching
Johan Santana
8 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 107 pitches, 72 strikes
Comment: The Minnesota ace gave his team a chance to win and then some. Even the game's best starter should be allowed to get away with one mistake per game and survive.

Spoken
"With Boof, he's a gamer. He's so clutch ... You don't have to worry about the pressure being on him. The pressure is on someone else, but I don't know who it's going to be."
-- Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter, on rookie Boof Bonser's crucial start in Game 2 of the ALDS on Wednesday afternoon

Next step
With Santana on the mound, Game 1 was looked upon as a must-win situation for the Twins. Tuesday's one-run setback makes Wednesday's contest, started by rookie Boof Bonser, the definition of must-win for the Twins' playoff survival.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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