The schedule requires the Oakland A’s to fly to Seattle on Thursday night for a weekend series against the Mariners.
They might wish they were sticking in the Twin Cities a little longer.
The A’s continued their mastery of Minnesota with a 6-1 victory Thursday afternoon that completed a three-game sweep at Target Field. That makes nine consecutive victories for the A’s over the Twins, and it extended their overall winning streak to four games as they move on to the middle portion of this three-city road trip.
Oakland actually found itself trailing for the first time in the series after Brian Dozier’s first-inning home run off Dan Straily (1-1). From there, the A’s rattled off six unanswered runs and finished with 13 hits for the day. They made Mike Pelfrey (0-2) pay for his wildness, as Josh Donaldson and Sam Fuld each connected for two-run homers after Pelfrey issued walks.
It was a great way for the A’s to start a trip that now takes them to two American League West foes, the Mariners and Los Angeles Angels for the next six games. The victory moved the A’s to 6-3 on the season and into sole possession of first place for the first time this season. They lead the Mariners by a half-game leading into their three-game series starting Friday at Safeco Field.
Starting pitching report
Straily was excellent, with Dozier’s solo shot the only blip on the radar. The right-hander limited the Twins to three hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked two, and his effort extended a terrific start to 2014 by Oakland’s starters. Through nine games, the A’s rotation has posted a 1.93 ERA (12 ER in 56 IP). The starters have surrendered three runs or fewer in all nine games, the longest such season-opening streak for Oakland since 1990, when that club’s rotation had a 10-game streak.
Aside from the three homers he’s allowed in his first two starts, Straily’s overall numbers are strong so far. Over 13 innings, he’s given up just nine hits and four earned runs with 12 strikeouts and just three walks.
No need for A’s manager Bob Melvin to make a closer decision on this day. With a big lead, Ryan Cook handled the eighth and Fernando Abad closed things out in the ninth.
At the plate
The A’s scored 21 runs during the series, and they’ve plated 27 overall during this four-game winning streak. Encouraging signs have come from Donaldson. He caused a stir when he got into a bench-clearing argument Wednesday with Twins reliever Glen Perkins. But more noteworthy was the way he used the opposite field. He drove a 2-1 pitch from Pelfrey over the wall in right in the third for his first homer of the season. Donaldson arrived in Minnesota with no extra-base hits, but he had three doubles and a home run during the series.
Fuld turned on a belt-high fastball from Pelfrey for a two-run shot, just his seventh career homer during his six-plus seasons in the majors. Alberto Callaspo went 2 for 5 and is batting .444.
In the field
Straily was aided by some nifty glove work in the second to help keep the Twins off the scoreboard. With runners on first and second, Daric Barton made a nice pick of Aaron Hicks’ sharp grounder and got an out at first. Then Eduardo Escobar drove a ball deep to center and Sam Fuld made a slick basket catch while going back on the ball to end the inning.
After a rainout and an adjustment to Oakland’s rotation, Tommy Milone (12-9, 4.14 last year) finally makes his first start of the season in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. series opener at Seattle. He’ll oppose A’s nemesis Felix Hernandez (2-0, 1.88), who was in typically dominant form in Saturday’s win at the Coliseum.