Athletics-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

Wednesday couldn't have gone much better for the Oakland Athletics, who claimed a lopsided victory after their division rival's slump continued.

They'll look to add another game to their AL West lead on Thursday against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Josh Willingham's two home runs sank the A's in a 4-3 series-opening defeat on Tuesday, but they bounced back with a 10-run fourth inning as part of Wednesday's 18-3 rout.

Oakland had eight doubles among its 11 extra-base hits - including one by Jed Lowrie in the fourth that was originally ruled a foul ball before umpires reversed the call. That prompted an argument from Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected for the fifth time this season.

Each Oakland starter registered at least one hit, one run and one RBI as the club finished with a season-high 22 hits. The Athletics (84-61) have a three-game lead over Texas, which was swept by Pittsburgh in a three-game set.

"Once we got rolling there, we never stopped," said Josh Donaldson, who was 2 for 3 to improve to 13 for 29 (.448) over his last seven games.

Athletics pitcher A.J. Griffin (13-9, 3.91 ERA hasn't received run support quite like Wednesday's win, but he's enjoyed some fairly strong offense behind him of late. He's gotten 16 runs in winning each of his last three outings and matched a career high with nine strikeouts over six innings Friday in a 7-5 win over Houston.

"Early on it was a little spotty, fastballs at times were up," manager Bob Melvin told the team's official website after Griffin needed 72 pitches to get through the first three of his six innings. "But then really, last couple innings he did his best work, no question."

It was another rough night for the Twins (63-81), whose only solace this season is likely avoiding the AL Central cellar for the first time in three years.

"A bad night, obviously, all the way around," Gardenhire said. "We didn't pitch very well, they beat the crap out of us, the ball went flying everywhere."

Seeking his own redemption will be starter Scott Diamond (5-10, 5.52) in his first outing since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. The left-hander was optioned after struggling through 20 starts, allowing five or more earned runs in three of the last five, but went 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA in six starts for the Red Wings.

Meanwhile, reinforcements for Minnesota's offense might not be coming any time soon. Catcher Joe Mauer, who hasn't played since Aug. 19 due to a concussion, had been reportedly close to a return. But the All-Star catcher was sent home from his workout early on Wednesday after experiencing concussion-like symptoms, general manager Terry Ryan said.

Oakland's Josh Reddick, who didn't start for a second straight day since being activated from the disabled list, was 1 for 2 with a double after entering Wednesday's win in the fourth inning.

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