The Oakland Athletics had won 42 of their last 57 games headed into Thursday — the best record in the major leagues since June 16. They’d gone from 12 games behind the Houston Astros on June 18 to tying the reigning World Series champions atop the division in a series last week lost.
The A’s first two games in Minnesota, though, haven’t gone so well. For the first time since being swept by the Colorado Rockies July 27-29, Oakland has now lost back-to-back games, as they fell to the Twins, 6-4 on Thursday.
A’s designated hitter Khris Davis took sole possession of the major league home run lead with his 39th longball of the year on Thursday, but Oakland’s inability to produce with runners in scoring position and another shaky road start from Trevor Cahill doomed Oakland in Minneapolis.
Davis’ homer — yet another opposite-field blast — started a two-run top of the second inning. Oakland (76-52), though, went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way, and the one hit — a two-out single by Marcus Semien in the top of the fifth — was thwarted when Eddie Rosario uncorked a perfect throw to nail Matt Olson at the plate to end the inning.
That throw kept Minnesota (61-66) ahead by two runs, and it was the last hit for the A’s until Jed Lowrie’s homer with two outs in the top of the ninth. They chased rookie Kohl Stewart after 4 2/3 innings, but failed to draw any closer than two runs against the combination of Alan Busenitz, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Matt Magill and Trevor Hildenberger — an Archbishop Mitty High School and Cal alum who closed the game out for his fourth save after allowing the Lowrie homer. Magill got out of a jam in the eighth by getting pinch-hitter Chad Pinder to ground out with two men on.
Cahill — who owns a 0.85 ERA at home — is 1-2 in seven starts with a 6.62 ERA away from the Oakland Coliseum. After allowing five runs in five innings on Thursday, that road ERA jumped to 6.92.
Cahill took care of the first two innings easily enough, but walked backup catcher and .178 hitter Bobby Wilson to open the third. After a Joe Mauer walk, Logan Forysthe hit into a double play, but Rosario singled home the Twins’ first run, stole second and scored on a seeing-eye single by Jorge Polanco to tie the game.
After the A’s had men on first and second with one out in the top of the fourth and failed to score, Minnesota struck again for three runs in the bottom half. Jake Cave started the inning with a one-out single, and Ehire Adrianza snuck a single into center field to put two men on. With Wilson having turned his ankle in the top half of the inning, Mitch Garver pinch-hit.
While the prior runs that Cahill had allowed could be attributed to poor luck, no luck would be involved with Garver, as Cahill hung a breaking ball that got pounded into the gap in left-center for a two-run double. Mauer followed by rolling a single into center field to drive in the the third run of the inning.
Matt Chapman would manufacture a run in the top of the fifth, beating out a great throw by Rosario for a leadoff double to start the inning and scoring on a wild pitch, but Rosario’s throw to nab Olson kept the A’s behind by a pair, and they would never get closer.
Cahill allowed eight hits and struck out just two, but Yusmeiro Petit pitched two spotless innings to keep the visitors within striking distance. Having not pitched since Friday, Blake Treinen was called on for the bottom of the eighth.
Treinen allowed a long solo homer to Max Kepler — just the second home run he’s allowed on the season and the first since April 6. That homer meant Davis came to the plate down by two in the ninth after Lowrie’s homer instead of representing the tying run, and he popped out on the first pitch to end the game.
Davis now leads the majors in home runs — one ahead of Boston’s J.D. Martinez and two ahead of Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez — but having lost two straight, the A’s now sit a game and a half behind the Astros in the AL West, with a three-game set in Houston for Aug. 27-29. They still hold a four-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot, and will face them four times at home Aug.30 -Sept. 2.