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Left side of A's infield comes up big

Left side of A's infield comes up big

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OAKLAND -- Third baseman Eric Chavez entered Game 3 of the ALDS hitless in his first eight at-bats of the postseason. On the same side of the infield, Marco Scutaro was business as usual at the plate for the A's: "Mr. Clutch."

Chavez had entered the playoffs with a .224 postseason batting average and in his previous ALDS against the Red Sox in 2003 he went 1-for-22 (.045). In the first two games against the Twins, he seemed to be following the same pattern as he was swinging at fastballs over his shoulders, fanning four times.

While Chavez was struggling, Scutaro became the unsung hero during the first two contests, with two RBI doubles and eight infield assists in Game 2.

On Friday, Chavez wasn't flailing at anything over his head and instead gave the green and gold faithful at the Coliseum a glimpse of what he was missing for most of the 2006 campaign. And for Scutaro, the Bay Area media might have to think of a new name for him, because Mr. Clutch wasn't enough.

Chavez and Scutaro combined for four hits and five RBIs on Friday as the A's won, 8-3, and swept the Twins in the American League Division Series.

Chavez started things off in the second inning when he slammed a solo homer off Twins starter Brad Radke into the right-field bleachers. Entering the at-bat, Chavez had one hit in his previous 30 postseason at-bats. He also had battled forearm tendinitis and hit just .241 during the regular season. It was his worst average of his eight seasons.

"In Minnesota, I was just swinging at everything," Chavez said. "So I just went back and told myself, 'You got to get pitches to hit today.' And that was it. I've got all the confidence in the world in my ability."

Three batters after Chavez, Scutaro stepped to the plate with Jay Payton on first and started to hear his name throughout the crowd. It was the typical chant for the A's fans at the Coliseum where they chant his first name followed by his last name -- similar to the "Marco Polo" game you used to play in the pool. But this chant seemed to mean more on the big stage, with 35,694 fans standing and waving white rally flags.

"That was a special feeling," said Scutaro, who is playing because Bobby Crosby is unable to play due to back problems. "When I heard everyone screaming my name, I just said to myself, 'Do not strike out, please.' Just make contact."

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Scutaro didn't disappoint. He slapped another RBI double to right field. Scutaro has eight walk-off hits since joining the A's in 2004 and has gained a reputation with his teammates.

"I was on the bench and I told [Kirk] Saarloos he's going to do something," pitcher Dan Haren said. "He's such a valuable part of our team."

After Chavez added an opposite-field double in the fifth, the A's combo contributed to the biggest inning in the seventh, when Scutaro put the game out of reach.

After Frank Thomas drew a walk, Chavez showed much more patience than in Minnesota by working an eight-pitch walk, his second of the day. Payton reached on an error, and after Nick Swisher walked in a run, the chants started again for Scutaro.

This time it was simply "Marco," and the 29-year-old Venezuelan delivered again with another opposite-field double. This time it cleared the bases and gave the A's an 8-3 lead.

"All of the fans were screaming and I didn't want to let them down," Scutaro said. "That was the best moment of my career."

After the game, Scutaro was asked how he is able to come up with the big hit in pressure-packed situations.

"I don't really know what to say," Scutaro said. "In this kind of situation, I just look for a pitch and just try to make contact and for the last three years it has just been working for me. I really don't know how to explain it."

A's general manager Billy Beane was very appreciative of his backup shortstop.

"He gets the big hit and he seems to be doing it all the time," Beane said. "I don't know where we would be without him."

Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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