Twins 7, Athletics 5
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Justin Morneau came through in the clutch again Tuesday night.
“I’ve been in that situation enough times that you learn to relax and do what you need to do and block everything else out,” said Morneau, who was showered with chants of “MVP” after his big hit.
“Yeah, it was pretty cool with all the fans chanting,” Morneau said. “But, the more important thing is the turnaround the team’s had.”
Morneau and Jason Tyner each went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Minnesota, which won its fifth straight and remained 1 1/2 games behind Detroit in the American League Central. The Twins began the day with a 1 1/2 game lead over Chicago in the wild-card race.
Morneau now has 120 RBIs, moving him into fifth place behind Kirby Puckett (121) on the Twins all-time single-season list. He is batting .422 in September with five doubles, a triple, a homer, 10 RBIs and 11 runs.
“He’s an MVP candidate, absolutely,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We wouldn’t be here without him, that’s for sure, and he’s worked his tail off.”
With the Twins trailing 5-3 Nick Punto led off the eighth with a single off Joe Kennedy (4-1). Joe Mauer walked and Michael Cuddyer hit a ground-rule double to make it 5-4, and Morneau followed with a double to deep center. Morneau later scored on a wild pitch.
“We just pecked away and pecked away and it was one of those things where you get up there and everyone’s pulling for each other,” Morneau said.
Eric Chavez homered and drove in three runs for Oakland, which entered the game with a 5 1/2 game lead over the Angels in the American League West.
“The starting pitching gave us enough, and we scored enough runs, but the bullpen didnt get it done,” manager Ken Macha said.
With the score tied 3-all, Dan Johnson led off the fifth with a 412-foot homer off reliever Willie Eyre to give Oakland the lead. The As made it 5-3 on Marco Scutaros RBI single in the sixth, but the lead was gone in the eighth.
“Any loss is tough at this point,” Johnson said. “They make you play nine innings.”
“We had that game won, bottom line,” Jay Payton said. “We had enough runs to win but let it get away.”
The Twins came back with two runs in the second despite a double play and two baserunning mistakes. Morneau doubled and Torii Hunter singled to start the inning. Rondell White then laced a shot to left that Nick Swisher caught and threw on a line to the plate to double up Morneau trying to tag and score.
Hunter was picked off before the next pitch but reached second base safely before scoring on Tyner’s two-out single. Luis Castillo had an RBI single to make it 2-2. However, Castillo got caught in a rundown and tagged out before the next pitch.
Chavez hit a solo homer, his 19th, off Guerrier in the fourth to make it 3-2.
The Twins came back again in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, White doubled and scored on Tyner’s opposite-field single off Saarloos.
RHP Brad Radke, out with a stress fracture in his pitching shoulder, threw before the game for the first time in two weeks. He said the session was pain-free and better than expected. … The Twins used a season-high six pitchers in the game, the fifth time that has happened this year. … Frank Thomas went 0-for-4 to snap a string of six straight games with a homer. It was a franchise record and a personal best for Thomas. … Kennedy gave up a run for the first time since May 3, a span of 14 appearances and 16 1-3 scoreless innings. He lost for the first time since Sept. 27, 2005. … Nick Swisher picked up his fifth outfield assist this season and second this week.