Oakland, CA (Sports Network) – Michael Cuddyer hit a three-run homer and Francisco Liriano pitched seven strong innings, as the Minnesota Twins held off the Oakland Athletics, 9-5, in the opener of a three-game series. Trevor Plouffe and Jason Kubel added two RBI apiece for the Twins, who have won three of four.
“We’re still in this chase with two months to go,” said Plouffe. “We have a bunch of games left in our division and that’s why we’ve been successful in the past. As long as we can win some on the road and do our job at home, we’ll be there come September.”
Liriano (7-8) gave up two runs on six hits to pick up the victory. He struck out four and walked two. Josh Willingham hit a three-run and two-run homer for the A’s, who have lost two in a row since a three-game winning streak. Gio Gonzalez (9-8) allowed five runs — four earned — on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings to take the loss. He struck out five and walked three.
“Other than the two homers from Josh, not a good day all the way around,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
The Twins got the game started with a pair of runs in the first inning. Plouffe reached base on a fielder’s choice and Joe Mauer singled to put men on first and second with one out. After Cuddyer struck out swinging, Kubel hit a two-run double to left.
Willingham tied the game in the home half with one swing of the bat. Coco Crisp hit a one-out single and scored on Willingham’s two-out homer to left. Minnesota added a run in the third. Plouffe reached first on third baseman Scott Sizemore’s throwing error. Mauer then reached base on a throwing error by Gonzalez. Cuddyer knocked in a run when he grounded into a double play.
The Twins tacked on a run in the fifth to make it a 4-2 game. Ben Revere led off with an infield single, stole second and scored on Plouffe’s base hit to center. The visitors put another run on the board in the sixth. Delmon Young and Matt Tolbert singled and Drew Butera walked to load the bases. Revere also worked a walk to force in a run. Fautino De Los Santos came in from the bullpen and limited the damage.
Oakland had a chance to get back in the game in the home sixth. Hideki Matsui singled and Willingham walked to begin the frame. But Conor Jackson grounded into a fielder’s choice and David DeJesus grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The Twins pulled away with a four-run eighth. With Michael Wuertz on the mound, Plouffe hit an RBI single. Mauer intentionally walked before Cuddyer cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left for a 9-2 lead.
Willingham made things a bit interesting with a three-run homer off Jose Mijares in the home eighth. Alex Burnett and Glen Perkins combined to pitch a scoreless ninth to seal Minnesota’s victory.
The Twins have taken four of six from the A’s this season…Liriano improved to 2-3 lifetime against Oakland…Gonzalez fell to 2-3 in his career against Minnesota…Oakland has totaled four or more runs in nine straight games…The Twins placed second baseman Alexi Casilla on the 15-day disabled list and recalled second baseman Luke Hughes from Triple-A Rochester. Hughes went 0- for-3 on Friday…The A’s went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded five.