This was before the game-winning homer, before the catch, before the first-inning triple, the fifth-inning sacrifice fly RBI, the eighth-inning single, the stolen base.
This was before anyone knew there'd be a Game 7 tonight, which there will be, mostly because of Kirby Puckett.
He's the guy who did it all to save the game that pushed the Twins and Braves to this wonderful ledge at the end of a glorious season: the breathless final game of the World Series.
"Before the game he said, `Get on board, I'm going to carry the load,' " Twins manager Tom Kelly said after Puckett recorded his name boldly in World Series history. "My gosh, that's carrying the load and pulling the truck and everything."
Ninety minutes before Game 6's first pitch, a reporter from the British Broadcasting Co.'s television network had Puckett alone for an interview. Puckett, unshaven, Twins cap perched casually on his head, holding a bat, was to the right and behind home plate, near the Braves dugout. It was a positively global event.
The distinguished man with the distinguished accent held a spiral notebook in his hands. He clumsily asked questions about baseball in a manner similar to the way a man who grew up in the projects of Chicago might ask questions about tea and crumpets.
"What kind of psychic effect is your slump having on you?" the Brit asked Puckett.
"Well, man, it's not like I'm trying to make an out, man," Puckett said, politely. "Just because I'm not hitting, man, doesn't mean I'm a bad guy or anything, man."
It was a lovely slice of the Series, of aliens coming to the Metrodome and talking to a member of Minnesota's royalty, the king of swing and minister of defense who made so much happen last night.
First, let's talk catch. It was the stuff that has always been a part of Puckett highlights.
"It's something you can't practice on," he said after the game. "When Ron Gant hit the ball, I knew it wasn't out. I said, `Just get back. Just get back.' "
He leaped. It was in his glove. Patented Puckett. He was in the midst of carving a masterpiece.
Second, let's talk hitting. Puckett came into Game 6 with a .167 Series average, one RBI, two singles, one homer, five strikeouts in 18 at-bats. Struggling.
"You guys said I struggled," Puckett said, a bit testily, afterward. "I haven't been struggling. I've been hitting the ball right at people."
Not last night. In the first, a triple down the third base line drove in the Twins' first run and then he scored the second.
In the fifth, he did sock the ball directly at a fielder, but it was at Gant in center field, and it was far and it was a sacrifice fly that scored the Twins' third run, a go-ahead run at that point.
Then came his homer in the 11th. No one came close to that cookie. The count was 2-1 and lefty Charlie Leibrandt, a changeup artist, was brought in to - ahem - keep the Braves alive. Puckett was the first man he faced.
Overanxious all series, Puckett, a habitual first-ball hitter, had to contain himself from going right after Leibrandt. Teammate and on-deck hitter Chili Davis gave him words of advice.
|Minnesota - LP: V. Worley||3||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: P. Maholm||8|
|Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon||7||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: B. Parnell||4|
|Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu||9||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta||2|
|Oakland - LP: J. Parker||1||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: R. Wolf||3|
|Arizona - LP: T. Cahill||1||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa||4|
|Washington||1||Bottom 8th Inning|
|Tampa Bay||2||Top 7th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs - J. Samardzija||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - F. Liriano|
|Detroit - J. Verlander||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - U. Jimenez|
|NY Yankees - H. Kuroda||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - J. Hammel|
|Seattle - B. Maurer||6:05 PM|
|LA Angels - J. Williams|
|Philadelphia - C. Lee||6:10 PM|
|Miami - K. Slowey|
|Boston - C. Buchholz||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - H. Santiago|
|Kansas City - J. Shields||7:10 PM|
|Houston - J. Lyles|
|St. Louis - T. Lyons||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - B. Smith|