OAKLAND – Sending Jon Lester to the mound cuts down on the decision-making for A’s manager Bob Melvin.
As the zeroes piled up on the scoreboard Thursday night, Melvin let his bullpen rest and simply watched Lester do his thing in a 3-0 blanking of the Minnesota Twins. The three-hitter marked the fourth career shutout for Lester, who was making just his second start in an A’s uniform.
He didn’t give up his first base runner until Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki lined a single over the head of shortstop Eric Sogard to lead off the sixth, and he finished with eight strikeouts and two walks.
The victory was No. 800 for Melvin’s managerial career, as he became the eighth active manager and 76th in major league history to reach that milestone.
Lester (12-7) received a standing ovation as he left the mound after eight innings, his pitch count at 105. But Oakland’s bullpen didn’t stir through the bottom of the eighth, and Lester set the Twins down in order in the ninth. He rang up Josh Willingham looking to finish the game on his 122nd pitch as the A’s took the opener of this four-game series.
Starting pitching report
Lester was perfect through five innings, and given that he already has a no-hitter on his resume, you wondered if something historic might unfold at the Coliseum. The perfecto ended, but Lester remained in complete control the entire night. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but he had command of his full repertoire and gave up little in the way of hard contact. The Twins loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs but Trevor Plouffe grounded to third to end that threat.
All was quiet for the A’s relief corps.
At the plate
Watching Lester dominate had to be comforting to Melvin, but seeing a couple of his sluggers barrel up a couple balls was also a welcome sight.
Vogt entered the night mired in an 0-for-23 funk. But in the third, he turned around a 2-2 pitch from Yohan Pino (1-4) and lined a two-run homer to right-center. In the fourth, Moss snapped an 0-for-18 streak by drilling a double off the top of the wall in right-center. Derek Norris followed that up with a double to left that scored Moss and made it 3-0.
No. 2 hitter John Jaso also broke an 0-for-18 mark with a third-inning single. But to classify this as a breakout game for A’s hitters wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Oakland scored enough to back Lester’s effort, but the A’s stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
In the field
It’s been somewhat of a down season defensively for Josh Donaldson given his high error total, but Melvin talked before the game of his third baseman’s attributes, including his range. Donaldson displayed that on the game’s second batter, as he raced toward the edge of the A’s dugout and made a nifty grab of Brian Dozier’s pop-up. He made another fine play in the fourth, charging and making an off-balance throw to first to get Danny Santana.
Donaldson’s 19 errors entering the night were second-most among all major league fielders behind another third baseman, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, who had 24.
The announced turnout was 22,108.
Scott Kazmir (12-4, 2.53) will match up against Kyle Gibson (10-8, 3.93) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game. Kazmir’s 3.12 ERA in 12 starts against the Twins is his lowest mark versus any A.L. team.