After winning five straight in their kelly-green jerseys, the Oakland Athletics donned their road grays for the first time since the All-Star break on Thursday and saw their winning streak snapped as the Minnesota Twins erupted against what’s become a fragile bullpen.
Back in at least some shade of green — their forest green alternates — on Friday, the A’s got back to their winning ways.
Ina 5-3 win over the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins, Oakland drove in three runs with two outs and danced around a pair of rare mistakes from Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson. The scuffling Khris Davis — hitting .182 since the break — drove in two, and the A’s remained a game up in the race for the second American League wild card.
“It just shows the resiliency of our team,” said Chad Pinder, who made a pair of Matt Chapman-esque plays at third and drove in a two-out, eighth-inning insurance run. “The three games we played at home against the Twins kind of have the same vibe as last year. I remember Edwin [Jackson] preaching to us that it was playoff baseball. I got that vibe when they were at our place. These are the series where you’ve really got to bear down. Every pitch counts.”
The win helped the A’s (56-42) avoid back-to-back losses. They haven’t lost consecutive games since they were swept in a day-night doubleheader at Texas on June 8.
Leading off the first, Marcus Semien — 0-for-5 in the series opener — slugged a 1-1 fastball tailing back over the heart of the plate for his 15th homer, giving Oakland 19 straight games with at least one home run, and an early 1-0 lead. Three batters later, Davis poked a two-out RBI single just to the right of second to add another run on Twins starter Jake Odorizi’s 23rd pitch of the frame.
A’s starter Chris Bassitt, who had pinpoint control in his last outing, couldn’t quite get a hold of his command on Friday on a day where the heat index broke 110 degrees with 65% humidity. He let a pair reach with one out in the first before getting a pop-up and a grounder to get out of the frame. He looked to get out of a two-on, two-out situation in the second, but Olson saw a soft grounder by Max Kepler go under his mitt and between his legs. Instead of getting Bassitt out of the inning, that ball scored Miguel Sano to get Minnesota (59-37) on the board.
In the third, Olson again had a rare miscue. With Nelson Cruz on first after being hit, Olson snared an Eddie Rosario liner with no outs, but hesitated before going back to tag the bag and try and double Cruz up. Olson got to the bag late, and was visibly angry with himself. That, too, cost the A’s, as Bassitt served up a slow, hanging 1-2 curve for a two-out, two-run no-doubter home run to Marwin Gonzalez two batters later.
After hitting his second batter of the inning, Bassitt got a visit from Scott Emerson — his first mound visit since the day before the All-Star break. He got out of the inning one pitch later on a grounder to third. He finished with 94 pitches in five innings, having given up two earned runs on three hits and a pair of walks. He left with a lead, thanks to the A’s breaking through again in the fifth and sixth.
In the fifth, Olson made up for his pair of miscues by lining a changeup-splitter at the shins into center, cashing cash in a one-out Semien double, tying the game at 3-3. The RBI single extended Olson’s hitting streak to 14 games.
Ramon Laureano led off the sixth by banging a hanging Ryne Harper curve for a booming double that one-hopped the wall in left, his 11th hit in his last 18 at-bats and second double of the night. Davis — who had just three RBIs in six games since the All-Star break — lined a breaker down into left for his second RBI single of the night. With two outs, Pinder extended the lead to 5-3 by singling home former Twins outfielder Robbie Grossman on a two-out, 1-2 curve.
Pinder — playing third for All-Star Chapman, nursing discomfort in his left ankle— made a sliding, spinning play to get Jorge Polanco for the first out of the seventh behind reliever Ryan Buchter, just before Buchter exited after an inning and a third for Joakim Soria. Having worked with Matt Williams at third recently, he made another Chapman snare in foul ground for the second out, and Soria got a fly out to center to finish the frame.
“Matty is an unbelievable resource for us, and honestly, for me, so is Chappy,” Pinder said. “Both of those guys helped me out. If you watch me, every pitch, I’m leaning on Matty. He’s one of the best to every do it.”
Mark Canha — playing right for the injured Stephen Piscotty — robbed Gonzalez of a would-be leadoff double in the eighth with a running grab in the gap.
Though Jurickson Profar’s throws from second have been much better as of late, he made a lolipop throw on a double play turn in the fifth that nearly cost the A’s an out. After he stopped running on a grounder in the top of the ninth — which turned into a 3-2-3 double play turned by the Twins to cut down Semien at the plate — Profar was replaced on defense as Pinder moved to second. Chapman entered at third for his first action since coming out of Wednesday’s game in the third inning.
Semien finished a single shy of the cycle, and Laureano had a pair of doubles. He’s now hitting .520 (13-for-25) since the All-Star break with five doubles and three home runs.