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Twins handle Yanks

Teams could meet againin October

By Gordon Wittenmyer

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- That chill in the air this morning may not be all arctic weather.

Judging by Tuesday night's events at the Metrodome, it may be a blast of October come early.

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With the Twins' Brad Radke outdueling the New York Yankees' top winner this season, Javier Vazquez, the Twins beat the Yankees 8-2 in the first meeting of the teams since last year's playoffs.

Forget that this game snapped a 13-game regular-season losing streak to the Yankees that stretched to 2001. "It's a new season,'' Twins right fielder Jacque Jones said.

A playoff-loud crowd of 38,766 that rose for two-strike, two-out pitches and stood for entire big-situation at-bats completed the sensation that something bigger was being played than the average major league game in mid-August.

When Corey Koskie, suddenly the hottest .246 hitter in baseball, hit a 1-2 fastball into the upper deck in right field for a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and rookie cleanup hitter Justin Morneau hit one even farther into the same deck in the third, the Twins opened a 3-0 lead and inspired visions of a more competitive rematch in October.

"As long as we hit the ball good,'' Radke (8-6) said. "I think our (pitching) staff will be ready for the challenge.''

If Boston, now tied with Texas for the top spot in the wild-card race, wins the wild card, the Twins would face New York in the first round again this year, based on today's standings.

And with Twins dominators Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and David Wells all gone from New York since each won a game in the Yankees' 3-1 series victory over the Twins last October, who's to say which team would hold the advantage.

Especially the way Radke pitched again Tuesday night, and the way tonight's starter, Johan Santana, has pitched the past two months.

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