Brett Anderson looked lean and mean in his return from Tommy John surgery, and the Oakland Athletics celebrated by winning with the help of any pitcher's true best friend: A triple play.
Anderson allowed a run and four hits with six strikeouts and no walks over seven innings in a 4-1 victory against the Twins that also featured the A's debut of shortstop Stephen Drew and an around-the-horn triple play.
Drew went 0 for 4 at the plate and wasn't involved in the triple play, which was started by third baseman Josh Donaldson on a one-hop grounder hit by Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe in the fifth inning. Adam Rosales made a great jumping pivot at second and completed the triple with a strong throw to first baseman Chris Carter. It was the 21st triple play in A's history and the first since Randy Velarde turned an unassisted one against the Yankees in 2000.
''J.D. got rid of it really quick and got it to me,'' Rosales said. ''I saw Plouffe and I had a couple steps to get him and just let it go as quick as I could. That was pretty sweet.''
(Sidebar: The around-the-horn triple play ought to be renamed "The Gary Gaetti" of the Twins for that time he started two triple plays in one game against the Red Sox in 1990.)
Anderson was impressed, too.
''I've never seen a triple play in person, let alone be on the mound for it, so it's pretty awesome,'' Anderson said. ''It kind of propelled me for the last two innings.''
Despite the efficiency and elegance of a 5-4-3 triple play, Anderson still was the star of the night.
Anderson hadn't been on a major-league mound since June 2011. The next month, he was having elbow ligament replacement surgery in his left arm. But he looked great against the Twins, even before throwing a pitch. Along with his rehab, Anderson dropped 25 pounds. At age 24 and healthy, his career is ready to take off. He threw 86 pitches — 62 for strikes — against Minnesota.
''Anderson really didn't give us much of a chance,'' Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He had a lot of life on his ball. It shows that he did everything he needed to do to get ready.''
And how nice of his teammates to greet him with the gift of a triple play. Those guys obviously care.