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Unshaken Twins prepared to bounce back vs. Yanks

MINNEAPOLIS — Too tired to take batting practice, the bleary-eyed Minnesota Twins milled around the Metrodome just hours after another postseason rally by the New York Yankees evened their first-round AL playoff series at one game each.

"I've just got this feeling," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I can't explain it. I look at the guys, and I see them talking and laughing and joking. . . . They're not like quiet and seeming like they're scared. Ready! These guys are ready to play. Every day, every inning, as we showed last night."

Two outs from taking a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five matchup, the Twins let the Yankees score twice in the 12th inning for a 7-6 victory after getting two runs off Mariano Rivera to tie it in the eighth.

"I thought we had that game won," said Hunter, whose homer put the Twins ahead in the top of the 12th.

"I guess the mystique came and got us. I don't believe in that, but I'm just saying," Hunter joked, one of several one-liners cracked in the clubhouse.

After a similar split at Yankee Stadium last year, New York outscored Minnesota 11-2 in the next two days at the Metrodome to advance to an AL championship series matchup with Boston.

The Twins insisted they aren't in awe of baseball's highest-paid team, which had the best record in the American League at 101-61.

"They are not intimidated by anything," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Carlos Silva pitches for the Twins on Friday night against Kevin Brown, and Game 1 winner Johan Santana is likely to start Game 4 on Saturday night against Orlando Hernandez or Javier Vazquez.

"So now they're going to say we're done," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Everybody says, 'Well, they can't handle a loss like that.' . . . I'll guarantee it: This team will come out fighting."

Gardenhire had a rough night — well after watching the Yankees come back against Joe Nathan. Gardenhire's wife, Carol, lost their car keys, so he called his daughter to come get them at the airport. They arrived home the same time as the morning paper.

"You open it up and it says, 'Nathan asked to do too much,"' Gardenhire said, referring to the headline over a column criticizing his decision to leave his closer in so long in the 12th.

Nathan threw 53 pitches, his longest outing in more than four years, and had made 43 straight appearances since June 17 of one inning or less.

"I really didn't have much choice," Gardenhire said, adding later that Nathan would be available to pitch on Friday if the situation dictated it.

Torre defended Gardenhire's decision to leave his closer in, saying "I would have done exactly the same thing he did last night."

Following the departures of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells — who each won games in last year's series — the Yankees' rotation is its weakest in years.

"When you go in and you've been with these guys from spring training, you don't think of anybody else instead of these people," Torre said, refusing to wish for his old rotation.

Santana, 13-0 in his last 15 regular-season starts, threw a light bullpen session Thursday that went well and appears ready to pitch on three days rest for the first time in his career.

"All I can tell you is my pitching coach came walking by my office and he had a big smile on his face. I think he is ready to take the ball," said Gardenhire, who wouldn't completely commit to starting Santana on short rest.

Torre will insert Kenny Lofton in the Game 3 lineup in place of Ruben Sierra and said he will decide Friday on his Game 4 pitcher. Hernandez, who has been complaining of a tired arm, appears to have the edge over Vazquez — who has one win in nine starts since Aug. 6. El Duque has been following a throwing routine as if he's scheduled to start Game 4.

"Duque gave me a thumbs up today, which is a good sign," Torre said.

Brown, whose first season with the Yankees has been tainted by an ailing back and an embarrassing tantrum in which he broke his left hand while punching a clubhouse wall, has pitched twice since Sept. 3.

"When he's healthy, he's up with the top pitchers in the game," shortstop Derek Jeter said.

Silva, a 14-game winner after arriving last winter in a trade from Philadelphia, has also struggled to keep his intensity in check.

After finishing his first career complete game and shutout against Anaheim in August, Silva celebrated by chucking the ball into the upper deck. He got chewed out by Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson.

"If we can control him early in the game and he doesn't get too excited and up in the zone, he will be fine," Gardenhire said.

Both Brown and Silva rely heavily on sinkers to get groundball outs, which means slick infield defense will be a big key. Luis Rivas probably won't play the rest of the series because of a sore elbow, leaving Michael Cuddyer to continue at second base — with a better bat, but a less-reliable glove.

Cuddyer, though, has had no problems in the field. He's been the pivot man on four double plays in addition to going 4-for-8 with a run and an RBI in the first two games.

"In playoff time you have no egos," Cuddyer said. "Whatever you can do to help the team win is basically what it comes down to, and I feel like I've been able to contribute a little bit both offensively and defensively."