A's lose Ross, swept in short series by Twins

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A's lose Ross, swept in short series by Twins

May 19, 2011BOXSCORE A'SVIDEOMLB PAGE MLBSCOREBOARD

OAKLAND (AP) This is what Twins manager Ron Gardenhire expected from his team all along: Balls flying out of the yard, steady starting pitching and a winning streak thrown in for good measure.Minnesota did all of that and more, and now the Twins no longer have the worst record in baseball.Justin Morneau homered and had three hits and Rene Rivera hit his first home run in nearly five years, and the suddenly resurgent Twins beat the Oakland Athletics 11-1 on Thursday."We've been beat up and some guys are starting to feel a little bit better," said Gardenhire after Minnesota's biggest offensive outburst of the season. "We had a fun series here. Are we out of the woods? No. We still have issues, we still have things we have to get better at. Today was a good day for us."
Nick Blackburn pitched seven solid innings for Minnesota, which has won three straight - all on the road - following a season-high nine-game losing streak.
NEWS: A's Ross leaves Thursday start after seven pitchesTrevor Plouffe also homered while Michael Cuddyer added three hits for Minnesota. Plouffe homered as part of a six-run eighth inning, the Twins' best of the season.Hideki Matsui walked and scored for the A's, who lost their starting pitcher Tyson Ross to a strained left oblique after throwing just seven pitches."You just try to get through 27 outs with your bullpen," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "It was a rough day, but we'll bounce back. This is one you just put behind you."Blackburn (3-4) gave up five hits and allowed only one runner past second base to end a three-start winless skid. He struck out two and walked one.Phil Dumatrait pitched the eighth and Anthony Swarzak worked the ninth to complete the six-hitter.Morneau hit a two-run shot off Craig Breslow in the fifth to make it 4-0.
GUTIERREZ: Ellis one hit away from 1,000Plouffe hit a three-run homer in the eighth when Minnesota batted around and scored six runs.The Twins got plenty of offense to complete the two-game sweep of the A's while matching their longest winning streak of the season. Every starter except second baseman Alexi Casilla had at least one hit while eight different Minnesota players drove in runs."We've scored runs, just not this year ... yet," Gardenhire said. "We really believe we can. We believe if we can get the stars lined up, we can do some damage."Cuddyer went 3 for 4 to raise his average to .267. Cuddyer needs four hits to become the 14th player in franchise history to reach 1,000 for his career.Rivera and Danny Valencia each had two hits.Rivera, making a rare start in place of Drew Butera, was only 1 for 15 this season before his solo homer off Oakland reliever David Purcey with one out in the second.It's Rivera's first home run since June 9, 2006. The backup catcher spent the past four seasons in the minor leagues with four different clubs before signing with Minnesota in December."It's a pretty good feeling, I can't lie," Rivera said. "I've been working hard in the cage, taking early BP to try to get my swing back. I don't mind going 0 for 4 if we win. To hit is a plus for me."Blackburn didn't need much support from the offense.The Twins' right-hander has not surrendered more than two earned runs in his past four starts and has won 10 consecutive decisions in May dating to 2009.Blackburn only allowed two Oakland runners to reach second base through the first six innings - both with the help of errors. He also got some help from Rivera, who threw out A's leadoff hitter Coco Crisp trying to steal second after Crisp singled in the first.The A's broke through for a run in the seventh but got little else.Matsui walked, took third on David DeJesus' single then scored on Mark Ellis' fielder's choice grounder.Ross (3-3) strained his left oblique and was removed after throwing only seven pitches.The lanky right-hander gave up a single to Twins' leadoff hitter Denard Span. Ross' 1-1 pitch to Trevor Plouffe got by A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was charged with a passed ball.Ross then wandered around the mound for a few moments before A's trainers were called to the mound. Ross walked off under his own power."It's a little tight right now," Ross said. "The first pitch to the second hitter it felt like I had a muscle spasm or a cramp. The next pitch I really felt it, and the third pitch I said I can't throw with this."Purcey rushed in from the bullpen and assumed the count on Plouffe, who grounded out. Span later scored on an RBI single by Jason Kubel.The Twins head to Arizona for a three-game interleague series with the Diamondbacks.Before that, however, Minnesota's players and coaches will attend a funeral for Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew in Peoria, Ariz. Killebrew will be buried in a private service Monday in his hometown of Payette, Idaho."It's going to be a tough day tomorrow, saying goodbye," Gardenhire said. "He's watching over us, we know that."Note: Ross is the first A's pitcher to leave after throwing seven pitches or fewer since Omar Olivares did it on June 16, 2000.

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.