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Twins need rookie to answer challenge

Twins need rookie to answer challenge

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins had to come from behind to reach the playoffs. Now, they'll have to do it again if they are going to stick around much longer.

"[Game 2] is huge," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "You never want to go down, 2-0, especially at home. Hopefully we'll avoid that."

To avoid that gaping hole, the Twins and rookie Boof Bonser will have to bounce back against Esteban Loaiza and Oakland in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at the Metrodome on Wednesday afternoon. The game is scheduled to begin at 12:09 p.m. CT.

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If the Twins have another comeback in them, now's the time.

"[Game 2] is extremely important, especially now that we've lost the opener," Twins catcher and AL batting champion Joe Mauer said. "We really need to get out of here with a split, because the last thing you want to do is go on the road down, 2-0 [in a best-of-five series]."

The A's, on the other hand, are in fine shape after beating Johan Santana in the opener and can win the series by winning twice in the next four games. The series moves to Oakland for Game 3 on Friday.

The A's aren't taking anything for granted, despite handing the Minnesota ace his first home loss in 23 starts.

"That's the kind of thoughts you really have to avoid," Oakland first baseman Nick Swisher said. "That team over there came back from the dead to win their division, and all they need is a win tomorrow and they're right back to even. Nobody in here is gonna give that win back, but we're not going to think about it tomorrow. This ain't over by a long shot."

The A's managed only seven hits in the opener, though three went for extra bases. That was enough offense to get the job done (the Twins had just five hits), but hardly the kind of performance to breed overconfidence.

"I'm not gonna say this wasn't important, it was," Oakland center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "But we've still got a long way to go, and this club knows that."

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Bonser, the AL's Rookie Pitcher of the Month for September, will make the biggest start of his brief Major League career against Loaiza, a veteran with playoff experience but one who is 3-6 with a 5.12 ERA at the Metrodome during his career.

The two right-handers starting means both teams will likely tweak their lineups from the opener, which pitted two lefties, Santana and Oakland's Barry Zito.

The Twins have lost five consecutive playoff games at the Metrodome and haven't won at home in the playoffs since Game 1 of the 2002 ALCS, against the Angels.

"We need to come back strong," Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I know we will. We've come back so many times, I know we can do it again."

Jim Molony 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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