OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Every ball the Minnesota Twins hit seemed to drop in the gap, perfectly placed just out of reach of the Oakland defense.
Jason Kubel hit a go-ahead bloop single in the eighth, and Craig Monroe drove in three runs and homered for the first time this season in the Minnesota Twins’ 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
Monroe’s three RBIs were a season best. Along with his solo homer in the seventh, he had an RBI double in the fifth and singled in a run in the second on a cool Bay Area night that featured rain for much of the latter part of the game.
A’s starter Joe Blanton (1-4) remained winless at home in 2008, dropping to 0-4 in the Coliseum. The A’s had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“Very exciting baseball game,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pitchers getting after it. Raining in Oakland. Don’t know if we’ve seen that before.”
Juan Rincon (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh for the victory and Pat Neshek had a perfect eighth. Joe Nathan then finished for his seventh save in as many tries despite allowing Mike Sweeney’s pinch-hit single. Nathan still struck out the side.
Emil Brown hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth—only the eighth home run for Oakland this season—but Blanton then gave up a tying solo shot to Monroe.
Monroe is 10-for-14 (.714) lifetime against Blanton.
“I have no clue,” Blanton said of Monroe’s numbers against him. “I know they’re better now.”
The right-hander, Oakland’s No. 1 starter who went 14-10 last season, had received run support of two or fewer runs in four of his first five starts this season. He struck out a season-high seven and didn’t walk a batter for the second straight start, but was tagged for five runs—four earned—and nine hits in 7 2-3 innings.
“I don’t know how you explain it,” Monroe said of his hitting against Blanton. “I really don’t. And I really don’t even want to think about how. I just like the fact that the ball just seems to find holes every time I face him, which is perfect.”
The A’s, who were coming off a weekend sweep of Kansas City, couldn’t do much against Twins starter Livan Hernandez. Oakland fell to 4-4 in one-run games.
After Daric Barton’s one-out single in the first, Hernandez retired the next nine batters he faced before Mark Ellis walked in the fourth. Hernandez was done after six innings, having allowed four runs and seven hits.
The Twins have won in all five of Hernandez’s starts, but the right-hander has no-decisions in his last two outings.
Monroe and Mike Lamb hit consecutive RBI doubles in the fifth and Monroe’s earlier single gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Lamb was 3-for-4 and blooped his double to shallow left in front of a diving Chris Denorfia.
“Four or five hard hit balls. The rest were balls that found their way in,” Blanton said. “It was probably my best outing of the year. I feel like I keep saying that. I’m throwing better than the results show. The breaks aren’t going my way.”
Gardenhire and A’s manager Bob Geren have said their teams will soon start hitting more home runs—and each got one in this game.
This matchup featured two teams among the lowest in baseball for home runs— now eight for the A’s and 10 by the Twins. Kansas City has nine.
“That felt so good, too,” Monroe said. “Hitting home runs and getting that feel, it’s a groove thing. Today was the day I found the slot, got behind one and hit it pretty good.”
Sweeney had a sore knee that kept him out of all three games against the Royals, his only major league team the past 13 years before he joined the A’s this season. He had missed the previous four games overall.
The A’s lost last year’s season series with the Twins 5-2.
OF Travis Buck was a late scratch for the A’s because of shin splints and could need a stint on the disabled list. … The A’s declined to comment on whether they are discussing bringing back DH Frank Thomas, released Sunday by the Toronto Blue Jays. … Oakland recalled LHP Dallas Braden from Triple-A Sacramento to take the roster spot of RHP Keith Foulke, who went on the disabled list Sunday with neck stiffness. … Twins SS Adam Everett, on the DL with a strained right shoulder, underwent an enhanced MRI that included a shot of dye. He also received a cortisone injection in the spot of his inflammation. “He’s a lot happier,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He feels really good about it.”