A’s pound their magic number down to 2

O.CO COLISEUM — The A’s looked like a first-place team Friday night, as their solid starting pitching, big hits, and capitalizing on mistakes demolished  the Twins 11-0.

Once again, the long ball put the Athletics on the board, as Yoenis Cespedes launched his 25th homer of the season to lead off the second inning.

Manager Bob Melvin says this is the Cespedes he expected to see this season:

“He had a little bit of a slow first-half, but again, he’s picking it up at the right time. He’s a guy that we rely on. He’s a guy that the other teams always know where he is in the line-up. And he’s really, here recently too, been getting us on the board quickly with some home runs and doing what we expect him to do.”

Derek Norris followed Cespedes with a double and scored on a two-out infield single by Josh Reddick. Daric Barton then crushed a single to right field that Oswaldo Arcia couldn’t handle, allowing Reddick to score.

The A’s picked up another run in the fourth on an RBI single by Alberto Callaspo that scored Norris, making it 4-0.

Then came the bottom of the fifth and a multitude of mistakes by the Twins. And Oakland wasted no time capitalizing on every last one.

Josh Donaldson drew a one-out walk, and Lowrie followed it up with a single. With two outs, Norris was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Andrew Albers got Chris Young to hit a ground ball to third, but Eduardo Escobar threw it well wide of first baseman Chris Parmelee, allowing all three runners to score and the inning to continue.

Callaspo then singled home Norris, Twins reliever Ryan Pressly threw a wild pitch, scoring Callaspo. Barton then grounded out and, mercifully, the inning was over.

Albers lasted just 4-2/3 innings, but was the victim of three costly errors. He gave up only three earned runs (eight unearned) and walked one while striking out two on 96 pitches.

On the other side of the rubber, Bartolo Colon was incredibly efficient in his six innings of work. Colon threw 94 pitches, 72 of which were strikes. He gave up five hits, but walked only one and struck out eight.

Colon’s 17 wins put him one shy of Jack Quinn’s record of 18 wins by an Athletics player at least 40 years old. Melvin said Colon is getting his second wind:

“… we’re seeing the movement again. We’re seeing the velocity coming back. We were able to give him a little bit of a break with the DL. … If you look at the overall numbers, he’s having a sensational season.”

Oakland starting pitching has now given up two runs or fewer in 11 of the last 13 games and are 8-1 in that stretch. The starters ERA in that span is 2.43, and they’re holding opponents to just a .197 average.

Just for good measure, Donaldson crushed his 24th home run of the year in the sixth, a two-run shot to make it 11-0 A’s. Over their last 41 games (since August 9), Oakland is batting .278 with 62 home runs, more than any other team in baseball.

Donaldson says it’s crucial that the offense is hitting its stride right now:

“We’ve been scoring a lot of runs lately. That’s gonna take some pressure off the starting pitcher and even the bullpen, per se. It’s one thing to score a lot of runs and do it early, as we have been. But I feel like throughout the game we continually add runs on, and I think that’s even more important.”

With the Texas Rangers losing earlier on Friday to Kansas City, the A’s magic number is down to just two. If the A’s win on Saturday, and the Rangers lose on Saturday evening, your Oakland Athletics will again be AL West champions.

Notes

The A’s are more than 27 games above .500 for the first time since finishing the 2003 season at 96-66. … Colon is now 3-1 with a 0.90 ERA since returning from the disabled list on August 29. He’s allowed one run or fewer in each of his last five starts since being reinstated. … Cespedes hit his fifth home run in September after hitting five total in July and August combined. … Donaldson now has 54 multi-hit games and 169 total hits this season.


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