Athletics 8, Twins 3

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Mark Ellis and Jason Kendall reached base a combined eight times from the top two spots in Oakland’s batting order. Mark Kotsay got aboard three times in the third hole.

Everyone on the Athletics acknowledges such production high in the lineup only leads to success all the way down, which this club will certainly need as it makes a push for the playoffs.

“That’s why they’re up there,” manager Ken Macha said.

Joe Blanton won his third straight start, Kendall drove in three runs to match his season high and the A’s beat the Minnesota Twins 8-3 on Tuesday night for their third consecutive victory.

Ellis added a two-run single for the A’s, who remained 1 1/2 games behind AL West-leading Los Angeles after the Angels held on for a 2-1 win over Texas. Ellis has been Oakland’s most dangerous hitter lately, and he followed consecutive three-hit games with another big night.

“It’s the same exact approach I’ve been doing all year,” said Ellis, who missed the 2004 season with a shoulder injury. “It’s been crunch time for a while now. You go to every stadium in the big leagues and you’re going to see scores. You can’t help but see the scoreboard. We worry about ourselves.”

Nick Swisher homered leading off the sixth for his 20th of the season and Kotsay added an RBI double and a run-scoring single. Kendall finished with three hits, including an RBI double, in a game that started 11 minutes late because of a light rain that required a tarp to be pulled across the field more than an hour before the first pitch.

Even another chase for the playoffs by the low-budget A’s hasn’t seemed to bring more excitement to the Coliseum, which had another poor night at the gates. The game drew 18,014, a night after 15,262 came out as the A’s began a 10-game homestand to conclude their home schedule. Oakland missed the postseason last year for the first time in five years.

Blanton (11-11), who beat Boston’s Curt Schilling last Thursday at Fenway Park, allowed more than two runs for only the second time in 12 starts. Jacque Jones hit a two-run homer with none out in the sixth, but Blanton got out of the inning without further damage and that was it for him after 103 pitches.

“I didn’t have very good stuff tonight,” he said. “I was falling behind.”

The rookie allowed three runs and five hits, struck out two and walked three. The burly right-hander also defeated the Twins on Aug. 1 with seven sharp innings.

Francisco Liriano (0-1) didn’t last long in his second career start and fourth appearance overall.

The 21-year-old left-hander and former San Francisco Giants prospect allowed a leadoff walk to Ellis followed by Kendall’s RBI double, then retired seven straight before running into trouble.

The Twins acquired Liriano from the Giants in a trade that sent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco before the 2004 season and also brought closer Joe Nathan to Minnesota.

The A’s loaded the bases in the fourth after Jay Payton and Scott Hatteberg walked and Hiram Bocachica reached on an infield single. After Swisher and Marco Scutaro struck out, Ellis hit a two-run single that chased Liriano, and Kendall followed with his own two-run single.

“I threw a good pitch (to Ellis) and he hit it,” Liriano said. “That’s what I wanted to throw him.”

Jones hit his 22nd homer in the sixth and Justin Morneau had an RBI double in the fourth for the Twins, who lost for the 10th time in 14 games. They dropped the series opener 7-6 Monday after rallying for five runs in the ninth.

“That was a real bad baseball game by our baseball team,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Missing cutoff men, missing plays, you can go all over the field. That was real disappointing. You can’t just play baseball like that. It isn’t taught around here.”

Notes

Ellis is batting .522 (12-for-23) during a five-game hitting streak. … Shannon Stewart’s left shoulder causes him so much pain he is unlikely to play again this season. Stewart met with Gardenhire before the game and they decided the Twins left fielder won’t play again in 2005 unless Stewart decides his shoulder improves enough that he wants to test it again in a game. … A’s SS Bobby Crosby was held out of the lineup after landing hard on his fractured left ankle Monday night only hours after being activated from the 15-day DL. “It’s sore, but I’ll be in there tomorrow,” Crosby said. … Matthew LeCroy was held out of the Twins’ lineup with a sore right big toe. … Longtime A’s PA announcer Roy Steele, with the club since it moved from Kansas City in 1968, missed his second straight game with a throat illness.

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