MINNEAPOLIS — Playing against his former team, Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham did it again Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours after clubbing a walk-off, three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Willingham blasted another homer Wednesday to lead the Twins to a 4-0 win over the A’s.
The victory was the Twins’ first three-game sweep since taking down the San Diego Padres June 17-19 of last season. It also pushed Oakland’s losing streak to eight.
“These long losing streaks can take on a life of their own,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re not just going to end. Our spirit needs to be better.”
Willingham, who started the season on fire for Minnesota, but had cooled of late, finished the three-game set with four hits and seven RBIs.
Perhaps more importantly for the Twins was the performance on the mound by pitcher Francisco Liriano (1-5).
Banished to the bullpen after beginning the season 0-5, the lefty pitched brilliantly in his first start since May 7. He allowed just three hits and two walks in six shutout innings, while striking out nine.
The Twins gave Liriano some early run support, scoring twice in the bottom of the first off A’s starter Tyson Ross (2-6).
Denard Span led off the game with a double and sacrificed to third by Ben Revere. A Joe Mauer walk set up Willingham, who ripped a first-pitch fastball into center, plating Span and the game’s first run.
Two batters later, shortstop Brian Dozier’s soft single to center scored Mauer, staking Liriano to a 2-0 lead.
That’s all the lefty would need.
Ross pitched effectively after the first too, but ran into trouble again in the fifth when he walked Mauer, then hung a curveball to Willingham, who crushed it into the second deck in left. The homer was his 10th of the season. Ross left after five innings.
As far as his team’s offense, Melvin could use only one word to describe it.
“Bad,” he said. “We continue to play hard. But we have to fight harder. There’s a difference.”