So when the Twins won the clubs’ weekend series with another outstanding start and another fortunate finish Sunday, both teams wondered if their fortunes were about to change.
The Twins managed just one hit in the first eight innings against Rich Harden, who struck out nine and topped 100 mph with his 114th pitch. But Carlos Silva matched Harden with seven superb innings, and Minnesota finally rallied against All-Star reliever Justin Duchscherer.
“When you’ve got good pitching, that’s what happens,” LeCroy said. “We’re not supposed to beat a guy who’s throwing like (Harden). He was unbelievable, but Carlos kept us in it, and we finally got a break.”
Minnesota’s only hit off Harden was Michael Ryan’s long homer in the third inning.
Mauer led off the ninth with a double down the left-field line against Duchscherer (6-3). Mauer advanced to third on a groundout and scored on LeCroy’s slow single up the middle, drawing boos from a Coliseum crowd that hated to see Harden’s performance wasted.
Juan Rincon (5-4) got three outs in the eighth for the Twins, who arrived in Oakland having lost 10 of 13. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 32 opportunities—and his first since July 27—in Minnesota’s first road series victory since June 7-9 at Arizona.
Though the Twins are nearly out of contention for their fourth straight AL Central title, they’ve got a chance to make a last-ditch run at the playoffs. They visit the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
“It’s a long shot, but we’re not going to give up,” Nathan said. “Hopefully we can get on a run, get going and try to get in position for a shot at the postseason.”
The A’s, who began the series alone in first place in the AL West, had won their previous nine series. They hadn’t lost a home series since May 13-15 against the Yankees, a streak of 12 straight.
They had won 20 of their last 23 games before their offense collapsed against Johan Santana, who threw a three-hit shutout on Friday, and Silva. The first half of Oakland’s two-week homestand has been a disappointment, with a 3-3 record and just three total runs in the three losses.
“It’s been a while since we lost a series, but it was bound to happen,” Harden said. “They have a bunch of good pitchers, and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
Harden, who struck out the side with 11 pitches in the second inning, is winless in three August starts after going 7-1 in his previous eight appearances.
Ryan snapped an 0-for-27 slump with his second homer of the season, but Harden didn’t allow another hit. Though he walked four, Harden mostly avoided trouble.
“I left a changeup up to (Ryan), and that’s what he expected,” Harden said. “Some other day, you might get away with it. Not today.”
Silva remained winless in his last seven starts despite another impressive performance. The right-hander allowed seven hits—all singles—in seven innings, but was pulled before the eighth after just 86 pitches.
Gardenhire said Silva left with tightness in his knee, but it shouldn’t keep him out of his next start.
“I tried to stay in, but I don’t want to do different mechanics and hurt my arm,” Silva said. “Today in the dugout, everybody was more relaxed, playing the game loose. Gardenhire was talking to us. A lot of fun things were happening in the game.”
Silva, among the majors’ best control pitchers, didn’t walk a batter. He has walked only eight in 159 2-3 innings this season. … OF Jacque Jones took batting practice with the Twins before the game. Jones, who leads the Twins with 17 homers and 57 RBIs, probably won’t go on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, though he’s expected to sit out Monday’s game. … A’s OF Nick Swisher went on the bereavement list due to his grandmother’s death.