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Willingham wills Twins past A's with HRs

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Willingham hit two home runs to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night at Target Field.

It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams, and good pitching and home runs for each were the highlights. But it was Willingham's eighth-inning blast with the Twins down 3-2 and a runner on first base that made the difference.

"I was happy to square up on a couple balls tonight and help us win," Willingham said.

Aside from a few long balls, Athletics starter Jarrod Parker held the Twins in check. He completed six innings, throwing 101 pitches and giving up two runs, seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts. The no-decision extended Parker's streak of consecutive starts without a loss to 19.

"He pitched great," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "When you are rolling up game after game like he is and you are not giving anything up, sometimes when you give up a run or two it doesn't look like its your best performance. But he pitched six innings, we're ahead when he leaves -- I'd take that."

Twins starter Liam Hendriks threw 96 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, seven hits and no walks with six strikeouts.

"I did pretty good from the windup," Hendriks said. "My fastball had a bit more life to it tonight. I did some work between starts and just quickening up my motion and there is no pausing anymore and I felt like I could locate my fastball a lot better-and that was really working."

Hendriks pitched strong early but started leaking oil in the fifth. When the problem continued in the sixth, he hit the showers.

"It was labor," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hendriks' performance. "He had to work at it. A lot of fastballs didn't really have a breaking ball. The best you can say is he hung in there and never gave up the big inning."

Josh Donaldson led off the sixth with a single. Hendriks hit his second batter of the game and then Yoenis Cespedes singled to left, scoring Donaldson to extend the Aís lead 3-1.

Caleb Thielbar relieved Hendriks and got out of the inning with a double play on a flyout and throw by center fielder Alex Presley.

The Twins came back when Oswaldo Arcia scored their second run in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer into the right-field bleachers. His 11th home run of the season pulled the Twins to within one run.

After Willingham homered off Ryan Cook (who took the loss), giving reliever Anthony Swarzak the win, Twins closer Glen Perkins came on in the ninth and shut down the A's in order for his 34th save.

"He gives up very few home runs,""Melvin said of Cook. "That's his job, that's what he does and he does it really well. And he gave up a home run today. Period."

Willingham opened the scoring in the second inning with his 13th home run of the season -- a bomb into the bullpen in center field. Parker gave up four hits in the early going, but the homer was the only one that hurt him.

"We had some big at-bats and some big hits, and none bigger than the two by Willingham and the one by Arcia," Gardenhire said. "We need those guys to get going. We put (Willingham) in left field instead of trying this DH stuff, and obviously he feels a little big better. He needed to get a smile on his face, it's been a battle for him and he felt like he wasn't helping the team. That was nice for him.

Hendriks had some early success against a strong Athletics lineup. He faced only 13 batters in four innings, striking out five of them.

But in the fifth inning, Hendriks hit Cespedes before Alberto Callaspo blasted a two-run homer over the right field fence to make it 2-1.

NOTES: Coming into the game, the Athletics ranked last in the majors with 1,229 assists. They're on pace for 1,392, which would break the MLB record for fewest assists in a non-strike year. ... The Twins, meanwhile, ranked third in the majors with 1,558 assists. ... The Twins' .293 batting average in September is the third best in baseball, trailing Boston (.317) and Los Angeles (.295) and ahead of Oakland (.290). ... In the last 31 games, the Twins have hit 37 home runs, which is the third most in baseball since Aug. 9. Oakland is first with 44 homers.
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