O.CO COLISEUM — Sunday afternoon was a showcase for former Athletics players — and not just in Oakland.
Fueled by two Kurt Suzuki at-bats and a Josh Willingham homer, Minnesota piled on five runs in the the last two innings to cement a 6-1 victory over the A’s in the finale of the weekend series.
And the Angels — the A’s main competition in the AL West — dropped another game at home against Boston as former Athletic Yoenis Cespedes delivered a 3-run shot to lead the Red Sox to a 3-1 win. The Angels loss helped the A’s maintain their four-game lead in the division.
With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth and a runner on, Suzuki (2-for-5, run, 2 RBI) drilled a Luke Gregerson (L, 2-2, 2.26 ERA) pitch for a double that hit off the jagged edge in left-center, making the game 2-1.
After a Kenny Vargas strikeout, it was Willingham’s turn. There was no “almost” with Willingham’s blast, which he crushed into the stairwell in left field for his 12th home run of the season.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
With the crowd riled up in the home half of the eighth, and runners manning the corners, Brandon Moss struck out on a Casey Fien slider.
Stephen Vogt came up in the same situation but with two outs, and flied out on the first pitch he saw.
The Twins added two more runs in the top of the ninth against Jesse Chavez, with Kurt Suzuki gathering his second RBI of the afternoon.
Glen Perkins came in to pitch the ninth, and the A’s went quietly.
Jason Hammel (no decision, 6-2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) pitched his best game for the green and gold in his sixth time taking the mound.
Of his starter’s performance, Melvin said:
“The ball was down in the zone, he mixed his pitches and the slider was sharper. After the second, we saw a lot of ground balls.”
Twins starter Phil Hughes (W, 12-8, 3.88 ERA) shut down the resurgent Athletics’ offense with just four hits and seven strikeouts over seven innings.
After scoring 18 runs in the first three games of the series, the A’s could muster just one run against Hughes and company.
In the eighth, though, it was Gregerson who allowed the damage to be done. Bob Melvin said of Gregerson’s outing:
“You can’t be much better than he’s been. For the better part of a month and a half he hasn’t given up a run. Couple guys just got on a couple of pitches and got him. [Gregerson] has been terrific.”
The win for the Twins is Ron Gardenhire’s 1,050th at the helm in Minnesota. Gardenhire needs 90 wins to tie Tom Kelly for most in franchise history. … After pitching 29-2/3 scoreless innings, the A’s bullpen have allowed 7 earned in their last 5.2 innings. … The Twins snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Athletics with the win. … Phil Hughes is 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA all-time at O.Co. …Willingham is now 21-for-61 (.339) with 8 HR and 19 RBI against Oakland in his career. … Sunday afternoon’s attendance was 25,598.