A's pull off road sweep of Twins
MINNEAPOLIS — The Oakland Athletics seem to have what one could call a road-field advantage over the Minnesota Twins.
The A’s got a quality start by Dan Straily and two-run homers from third baseman Josh Donaldson and center fielder Sam Fuld in a 6-1 win over Minnesota to complete a sweep of the Twins in the series finale on Thursday afternoon.
The A’s (6-3) are 9-1 against the Twins since the start of the 2013 season and have won eight of their last nine games at Target Field.
“Minnesota probably isn’t known for being a great hitter’s park, but we feel pretty good here,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson, the A’s No. 3 hitter, and Fuld, the leadoff batter, hit two-run shots in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
The right-handed Straily (1-1) pitched seven innings, allowing three hits, walking two and striking out five to help the A’s win their fourth straight game.
“Their kid threw the ball really well,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Straily changed speeds. I think you saw the slow breaking balls and the deception with the fastball and moved the ball in and out and kept us off balance pretty much all day.”
Straily, a third-year pitcher who was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 2013, said he was not on his “A-game.”
“I realized after the second inning I didn’t have my best stuff in my arm today, so it was just mixing speeds and trying to keep everybody off-balance,” he said. “I felt 100 percent I just didn’t have the whip that I usually do.”
The A’s starting rotation has allowed three runs or fewer in each of their first nine games of the season, posting a 1.93 ERA.
“There’s a brotherhood mentality in this clubhouse that’s special. It’s no different in the rotation,” Straily said. “We’re all putting together quality starts, but at the same time we’re helping each other out and trying to make each other better each and every day.”
Straily’s only black mark came in the first inning when Twins second baseman Brian Dozier hit a home run, his third of the year, to left field on the first pitch to him.
Oakland tied the score at 1 in the top of the second when a two-out single to left by first baseman Daric Barton drove home designated hitter Alberto Callaspo from second base.
Then, with no outs in the top of the third, Donaldson, who was 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the game, made it 3-1 when he knocked a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-center field to bring home shortstop Jed Lowrie, who led off the inning with a walk.
In the top of the fourth, the A’s went ahead 5-1 after Lowrie hit a two-run homer of his own, sending a 3-1 pitch 365 feet over the right field wall, driving in second baseman Nick Punto, who reached base on a walk.
In the top of the sixth, Oakland made it 6-1 when a sharp single to center by Donaldson scored Fuld.
“We have some guys who have some thump,” said Donaldson , who raised his average from .194 to .220. “We did a great job all series getting guys on base. When you do that, you’re going to give your team a chance to produce runs.”
Right-hander Mike Pelfrey (0-2) took the loss for the Twins. He went five innings, allowing six earned runs, nine hits and four walks.
“I thought all the way around I was terrible today,” Pelfrey said.
The Twins fell to 3-6 with the loss, which was their ninth straight at home.
“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Gardenhire said. “It’s not like the guys aren’t trying. It’s just not working right now. We’ve got to figure out how to score runs and do our thing here. Yesterday was a great ballgame. We had our chance. We had plenty of chances to win. Today, not so much.”
Notes: Twins 1B Joe Mauer was presented with the 2013 Silver Slugger Award before Thursday’s game by former Twins right fielder and current hitting coach Tom Brunansky. It is Mauer’s fifth Silver Slugger Award. ... A’s 3B Josh Donaldson extended his hitting streak against the Twins to 13 straight games with his third-inning home run. ... The A’s removed RHP Jim Johnson from the closer’s role and will go with a by-committee approach, manager Bob Melvin said. Johnson is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA this year. The 30 year-old had 50 saves in 59 chances and a 2.94 ERA for Baltimore last season. ... A’s LF Yoenis Cespedes went 2-for-5 in Thursday’s win, raising his average to .250. He was 4-for-11 in the series and is now 17-for-38 (.447) with 14 RBIs in nine games at Target Field and 22-for-52 (.423) against the Twins. ... The two home runs on Thursday gave the A’s nine for the year, which ties them for 10th in the American League with five other teams. Oakland was third in the majors in home runs as a team in 2013 with 186. ... A’s SS Nick Punto was in the starting lineup for the first time this series and went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Punto, who played seven seasons for the Twins, appeared in the two previous games as a pinch hitter and pinch runner. He is batting .214. ... Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe snapped his current eight-game hitting streak going 0-for-3. He hit .364 (12-for-33) with three doubles and seven RBIs in the eight games.