OAKLAND -- Bad news for the A’s Saturday night, as they left the field after their 9-4 throttling of Minnesota bereft in the knowledge that the Twins leave tomorrow and won’t be back for another year.
Oakland drew first-time starter Trevor May, a highly regarded Twins pitching prospect, and May was overcome by the moment, walking seven hitters in his two-inning start. That got the A’s four quick runs, and the Twins were largely done at that point. Oakland is now 6-0 this year against Minnesota, and has won 12 consecutive against them with only Sunday’s game left.
But the news isn’t all bad in a touchdown-margin win (you’re all getting the sarcasm here, right?). With the win, Oakland maintained its healthy lead over the Los Angeles Angels, and with a dodgy road trip coming in Kansas City and Atlanta, then two games with the Mets before the Angels come to Oakland, a week-sized lead would be just the thing to take a little of the edge off the divisional race.
Every Elephant reached base, from Eric Sogard (four walks) to Derek Norris (three-run homer and two walks) to Josh Donaldson (double, two singles, hit by pitch) and even Brandon Moss (single, two walks to take some of the sting off a hitting slump that has seen him go 4-for-his-last-40. That ballooned Jeff Samardzija’s run support to a whopping 3.36, taking him from 90th out of 93 qualified starting pitchers to 86th. In Oakland, it is 6.14, though, which would be good enough for first ahead of teammates Jesse Chavez and Scott Kazmir.
And now, some bonus fun. Tommy Milone, the exiled Elephant, was called up to replace Kevin Correia, who apparently is being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Say hi to him if you see him at the park.
Starting pitching report
Samardzija wasn’t exactly commanding fear against a modest Twins attack, but other than a one-out double by second baseman Brain Dozier and a subsequent base hit by third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the first, he minimized the damage he steered himself into in his seventh start for Oakland. His fastball averaged 95 mph, and he was routinely hitting that even at the end of his six innings, but he also gave up four hard-hit doubles and his last out was a scorching line drive out by Danny Santana. He is now 3-1, 3.08 in his seven starts here, but the A’s have won six of the seven. We’ll have more meaningless and even deceptive stats later in this piece.
The scoreless streak died at 30 innings when Dan Otero allowed eighth-inning doubles to Eduardo Escobar and Jordan Schafer (no postgame pies for you), but Otero also allowed three other singles in his two innings of work, his first meh outing since July 19 against Baltimore in an 8-4 loss. Eric O’Flaherty pitched an uneventfully spotless ninth.
At The Plate
Well, they were selective. Very selective. Extraordinarily selective. In fact, they barely had to swing a bat at all. The A’s drew seven walks in the first two innings, including two each buy the slump-strangled Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. Only three of them scored, which isn’t very efficient, but it was more of a cushion than Samardzija needed on a night when he wasn’t that pin-pointy either. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe it was home plate umpire Pat Hoberg and his toenail-sized strike zone. Stephen Vogt’s seventh homer of the year in the fifth made it 6-2, and Derek Norris followed with a three-run strike an inning later to smother the game’s final competitive aspects, but for the most part the A’s jumped on the Twins one slow trot after another.
In The Field
Right fielder Josh Reddick was the standout, cutting off several balls in the gap and making strong throws to prevent at least two runs from scoring, and on the back end, Eric Sogard’s throwing error in the third threatened to create a Minnesota run, but for the most part the Oakland defense was well within tolerable limits.
A hefty 32,074, enhanced by Tony La Russa Bobblehead night. La Russa, now the head of baseball operations with the Arizona Diamondbacks, failed in his attempt to short-hop former catcher and current Twins coach Terry Steinbach with the ceremonial first pitch but helped push the 2014 total to 1,447,934 (24,541 per game). That’s up 89,835 from a year ago, about 200,000 more than 2012, and about 340,000 more than 2011. This Melvin character might be worth his salary after all.
The A’s finish their free ride with the Twins Sunday, and in doing so hope to keep Jason Hammel’s resuscitation on pace. Hammel (1-4, 7.15/9-9, 3.70) faces Phil Hughes (11-8, 4.01), and given Hammel’s last start (5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in a 3-0 win over Tampa Bay), consolidating that effort would be helpful to the A’s, especially the upcoming road trip that begins in Kansas City.