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Torii Hunter: Twins teammate refused to pinch hit against Yankees in '04 playoffs

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: March 30, 2012 - 8:07 PM

 

 

This post comes from Star Tribune copy desk ace Ken Chia.

Game 2 of the 2004 Division Series at old Yankee Stadium was one of the more memorable games in recent Twins playoff history.

The Twins – already leading 1-0 in the series – rallied to tie the score off Mariano Rivera but left the go-ahead run on base in the eighth, went ahead on a Torii Hunter homer in the 12th inning and then watched Joe Nathan wither and blow the game in his third inning of work in the bottom of the inning.

One aspect of the game that has gnawed at some fans was Jason Kubel’s eighth-inning at-bat against Rivera, after Corey Koskie’s double down the left-field line took an unfortunate bounce into the stands, leaving pinch runner Luis Rivas unable to score from first.

So with runners on second and third, one out and the score tied in the eighth inning of a playoff game, Kubel – the Twins’ top prospect at the time but with very few major league plate appearances – was left to hit for himself against Rivera, well-established then and now as one of the best closers ever.

Painfully for Twins fans, Kubel swung and missed at three pitches and the Twins failed to take the lead.

And they haven't won a postseason game since, losing 12 in a row.

Well, some eight years later, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the former Sports Illustrated baseball writer, talked to Hunter and Michael Cuddyer about the Yankees’ hold on the Twins. Hunter, while getting the situation slightly wrong (the Twins weren’t trailing by a run, the score was tied), said that someone on the bench was asked to pinch hit for Kubel but declined.

On the bench at the time were catcher/first baseman Matthew LeCroy, who pinch hit later in the game; outfielder Lew Ford, who batted .299 in 154 games that season and started the other three playoff games; and infielder Augie Ojeda, who didn't appear in the series.

Here's Heyman's entire item. Do you believe Hunter? And if so, who do you think wimped out?

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