Twins 6, Athletics 4
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The All-Star break appeared to be the perfect tonic for the Minnesota Twins.
Shannon Stewart went 4-for-4 with an RBI for Minnesota, which has bounced back to life after ending the first half with 22 losses in 28 games.
“We didn’t even watch baseball,” Hunter said. “A lot of guys went fishing, hung out with their families. We’ve got a brand new start.”
Kenny Rogers (8-5) beat Ted Lilly in a drawn-out battle of two wild lefties, as Minnesota finished the season 8-1 against Oakland and swept a four-game set from the A’s for the first time since August 1993. The Twins also beat Oakland in the first round of the playoffs last year.
“We finished off a very big series,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to carry it over and get back in this race.”
Erubiel Durazo hit a two-run double for Oakland, which hadn’t been swept in a four-game series since April 1999 against Cleveland.
After watching the Twins beat their “Big Three”—Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder, the A’s needed a strong start from Lilly (5-8) that they didn’t get. He gave up six hits, six runs and three walks, striking out five but throwing 107 pitches in five innings.
“I felt good going in, but I put us in a bad situation,” said Lilly, who’s 2-6 with a 6.46 ERA in his last 11 outings.
Oakland plays at Kansas City on Monday, with new No. 5 starter Rich Harden sure to be feeling some pressure in his major league debut against the Royals— who won three of four from AL West-leading Seattle.
“He just has to go out there and show what he’s got,” A’s manager Ken Macha said.
Oakland dropped a game in the standings to the Mariners over the weekend and is five games back. The A’s are batting a major-league low .226 with 51 runs in 16 games this month.
“The whole year we’ve had a lack of production,” said third baseman Eric Chavez, who’s batting .212 in July. “We’ve only had spurts of offensive brilliancy.”
The Twins, who have two-game series with Seattle and Kansas City at the Metrodome this week, are 6 1/2 games behind the Royals.
“Hopefully they’ll fall off, but if they don’t, what can you do?” Hunter said.
Rogers wasn’t a whole lot better than Lilly, surrendering six hits, three runs and a season-high five walks while striking out seven in 5 2-3 innings. He threw 111 pitches and also hit a batter.
“What can you say?” Gardenhire said. “That was a huge situation for us.”
Dave McCarty’s two-out RBI single put the A’s ahead in the first, but the Twins didn’t waste any time responding. Stewart beat out a chopper to third, Luis Rivas pushed a beautiful bunt up the first-base line for a single, and Mientkiewicz hit a 1-1 pitch into the blue stacks of football seats above right field for his ninth homer to put Minnesota up 3-1.
Stewart doubled in a run in the second, and Hunter homered to right with two outs in the fifth after Mientkiewicz walked to make it 6-1 Twins.
After stranding nine runners and five in scoring position against Rogers in the first five innings, the A’s got one back on a two-out RBI single in the sixth by Terrence Long—who struck in each of his first three at-bats.
The Twins put 3B Corey Koskie (back) on the DL, retroactive to July 12, and called up INF Alex Prieto from Triple-A Rochester. After the game, they put OF Lew Ford (forearm) on the DL and recalled 1B Todd Sears. … Oakland CF Eric Byrnes returned to the lineup and broke an 0-for-17 drought with a double in the fourth, a ball that eluded Chris Gomez at third base and rolled into left field. Official scorer Tom Mee initially ruled it an error before changing his mind. Byrnes is 5-for-57 in July. … Opponents are batting .386 (32-for-83) inthe first inning against Rogers this year.