Powered by former Twin Danny Valencia, the Oakland Athletics overcame multiple deficits to defeat Minnesota 7-4 Tuesday night.
After another abbreviated start from Eric Surkamp, reliever Ryan Dull entered the fray with two outs in the fifth, stranding a runner at second and earning the win for his 1-1/3 innings of scoreless work.
Unable to hold down Valencia, who contributed two hits and three runs to the Oakland cause, Minnesota pitching failed to keep the A’s (24-29) from plating the magic fourth run, with which they are now 16-8.
Starter Tyler Duffey (L, 2-4, 4.57 ERA) was tagged with all five runs in his 4-2/3 innings, for the Twins (15-36).
The A’s finished an 11-17 month of May on a four-game winning streak. Of the stretch, manager Bob Melvin said his team has collected great momentum as the calendar turns to June:
“We’re not thinking about two weeks ago, we’re thinking about where we are right now. We’re playing a lot better right now, across the board.”
Valencia said that the success has not been a surprise:
“We feel good about ourselves, we’re a good baseball team. We’ve been a little inconsistent, but it’s a long season and we’re a tough group. There’s a lot of good players in here.”
Each time the Twins put a tally on the board, the A’s responded in kind. The difference in the game came with Oakland’s ability to answer with crooked numbers thrice — scoring two runs in the third, fifth and eighth innings.
The first two big frames were initiated by lead-off singles from Stephen Vogt, and included run-scoring extra-base hits From Valencia.
Vogt said that getting a runner on base to start an inning has been the key to offensive success:
“When we get the lead-off guy in the inning, we’ve really done damage. I think that that’s something we need to continue to do … Get the lead-off guy and good things happen.”
The big blast of the game came following a top of the third in which the Twins were unable to cash in on a bases-loaded situation, when Valencia brought in both Vogt and himself with an opposite-field home run (8).
Of the impressive homer, Valencia said he wasn’t sure if it would carry out, as getting over the wall is tough even in batting practice:
“In the first couple at-bats, they were throwing me away. Everything was away, so it made me set my eyes out over the plate. I knew I hit that ball good, but the Coliseum is a big place.”
Through his first five starts of the season, the third inning had been an enigma for Surkamp (ND, 0-3, 6.41 ERA) who had allowed the opposition to go 10-for-27 (.417) in the frame. It was more of the same Tuesday, as the big lefty gave up a pair of singles. He also hit two batters.
Aided by two stellar snags from the left side of his infield, Surkamp escaped the threat with only one Twin crossing the plate.
The A’s took the lead for good after Minnesota tied the game with their third of four one-run frames in the fifth. After Vogt — who finished with three hits and two RBIs — was driven in on a Valencia double, Marcus Semien chased the third baseman with a double of his own.
Vogt then added a touch of insurance with a two-run double in the eighth.
Dull (W, 1-0, 2.93) was awarded the win, as he once again came into a sticky situation and played the role of goo-gone. called on by manager Bob Melvin, the right-hander stranded his 21st inherited base runner in as many chances. The 21-for-21 inherited runners left on base is tops for major-league relievers.
With both members of the closer tandem, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, unavailable it was John Axford who got the nod for the ninth. Able to seal the deal, Axford posted his first save of the season in support of Dull’s first win.
Of the bullpen, Valencia said:
“They’ve been great the whole year, really. They’re pretty much the backbone of our team. We expect a lot out of them, and they came out today and did a great job.
Sean Manaea (1-3, 7.03 ERA) will take the bump in the series finale, looking for a sweep and 5-1 home stand. He will lock horns with fellow rookie lefty Pat Dean (1-1, 3.43 ERA) in the Wednesday matinee.