Twins 4, Athletics 3

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Twins’ victory over Oakland on Sunday resembled many of their wins from last season. There was solid starting pitching, timely hitting and pesky baserunning.

Perhaps that’s why many Minnesota players hope their latest game will start another improbable run to the playoffs.

Joe Mauer singled home the winning run in the ninth inning after Justin Morneau hit a tying homer in the eighth, and the Twins completed a four-game sweep of the slumping Athletics with a 4-3 victory Sunday.

“It’s kind of feelings of last year at this time,” Minnesota third baseman Nick Punto said. “Guys were coming up with big hits with a guy on base, and I kind of see signs of last year. Hopefully we can get on some kind of roll like we did last year.”

Eric Chavez homered for the A’s, who have lost seven in a row—their longest skid since also dropping seven straight in late May last season. They have scored three runs or fewer in 10 consecutive games, matching a team record set in September 1978.

“We just need to get a little more offense, I guess, to win games,” manager Bob Geren said. “What’d we get, six hits tonight? Offense is starting to come around, we just need to break out and get us on the winning track once that gets going. Our pitching has been pretty good.”

Luis Castillo led off the ninth with a triple against reliever Joe Kennedy (2-8) and trotted home on Mauer’s third hit of the game, which bounced through a drawn-in infield.

Castillo, who normally rests his aching legs on day games after night games, dashed around the bases to set up the winning run.

“That was pretty impressive,” said All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter, who did not start for Minnesota but pinch-hit in the eighth. “I didn’t think he could run like that anymore, but he surprised everybody. He was pretty pumped up about it.”

Morneau tied the score at 3 with his 25th home run, a shot into the right-field upper deck off reliever Santiago Casilla. Minnesota earned its fifth series sweep this season and first four-game sweep since taking four in a row against Kansas City from Aug. 3-6, 2006.

Dan Haren started for the A’s, his first outing since starting the All-Star game last Tuesday for the AL. The right-hander gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked three.

“I’ve never been part of a losing team and I don’t want to be part of a losing team,” Haren said. “It’s not going to be a fun flight home. We’ve got to gather ourselves because right now we’re in a tailspin.”

The Twins hope to show the rest of the AL that they’re capable of turning it on the way they did last season. Minnesota won 71 of its final 104 games in 2006 and captured the AL Central crown on the season’s final day.

“These guys are rejuvenated, ready to go,” Hunter said. “We know what we did last year. We can kind of build off of that.”

Added manager Ron Gardenhire: “We can have some fun in the second half, if we pitch. It’s all going to be about our starting pitching.”

Pat Neshek (4-1) worked one inning of relief for the win, striking out two.

Twins starter Boof Bonser, who hasn’t won since June 10, gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings. He left the game leading 2-1 with runners on first and third. It was only the second time in his last seven outings that he’s left with a lead.

Casilla entered the game having allowed only one run in 21 innings this season.

Oakland grabbed a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Travis Buck lined a two-run single up the middle off reliever Matt Guerrier.

The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Nick Punto’s triple past diving first baseman Nick Swisher scored Mike Redmond and Jason Tyner.

Chavez led off the fourth with a 420-foot drive over the right-center fence.

Minnesota could’ve held a bigger lead, but stranded six runners in the first four innings. Minnesota left the bases loaded in the third and failed to score a runner from third base with less than two outs in the first and fourth.

Minnesota began a second-half surge toward the playoffs in 2003 by earning a four-game sweep against the A’s immediately after the All-Star break.

The A’s hold the majors’ best record (376-221) after the All-Star break since 1999. They’ll need a second-half surge of their own if they hope to contend.

“We’re better than we’re playing and we know we’re better than we’re playing,” Haren said. “We’re not letting up and we’re not down, but it’s the time of year that we have to turn things around.”


A’s left fielder Shannon Stewart singled in the third and has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games. … Former Twins great and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew hosted a dinner in right field following the game to raise money for charity. … Twins reliever Dennys Reyes pitched one scoreless inning. He has yet to allow a run in 14 appearances since coming off the disabled list on June 14. … In four appearances out of the bullpen, Kennedy has a 15.75 ERA.

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