Oakland A’s catcher Sean Murphy (12) forefront, Tony Kemp (right) with Ramon Laureano (center) celebrate the team’s 11th straight win after a Minnesota Twins throwing error in the tenth inning on Wed Apr 21, 2021 at the Oakland Coliseum (AP News photo)
Minnesota 12 – 18 – 2
Oakland 13 – 13 – 2
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–The Minnesota Twins, battered by Covid and the Oakland A’s announced earlier today that they had added J.T. Riddle, who had seemed healthy enough to pinch run in last night’s game, to their Covid Protocol list, which is now five names long. To replace him, Minnesota recalled switch hitting catcher Tomás Telis.
Battered they might be, but the Twin Cities’ team came out fighting. The Oakland starter, Frankie Montás (2-1, 4.91) threw only one pitch that was called a ball in the first inning. Maybe he should have thrown a few more. With one out, one-time A’s fan favorite Josh Donaldson slammed Montás’s seventh pitch of the game, a 98 mph slider over the left field fence to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead in the twinkling of an eye. They didn’t score again that inning, but Byron Buxton doubled to right, and, one frame later, Brent Rocker rocked a two bagger off the left center field wall.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s veteran right hander Kenta Maeda, although he got through the first unscathed, gave up a game tying homer to Matt Olson, his fifth of the year, a line drive over the 362 foot marker, just to the left of the right field score board. Like Donaldson, Olson hit his dinger.
As it advanced, the Athletics´ offense abandoned the big blast for singles hitting and alert baserunning, aided by Maeda’s troubles with his control. With one down, he hit Mitch Moreland with a pitch. After Sean Murphy flew out to center, Seth Brown singled to right, sending Moreland to third.
Elvis Andrus singled him home, while Brown moved on to second. Mark Canha then hit a liner back to Maeda, who couldn’t handle it. That turned out to be an infield single that loaded the bases. Maeda’s first pitch to Ramón Laureano was a wild one, which brought Brown home with the A’s fifth run.
That two run lead for Oakland couldn’t survive Minnesota’s third inning onslaught. Luis Arraez led off with a double to center and scored the tying run when Donaldson followed that with a single to left. Donaldson prompted trotted home in front of Nelson Cruz, who sent an 87mph slider over the left field fence for his fifth round tripper and 11th and 12th RBIs of the campaign and, incidentally a 4-3 Minnesota lead.
Even though Jorge Polanco slipped a single between the two outs that followed Cruz’s homer it looked as if Montás had weathered the storm. But there stilll was room for more misfortune. The A’s hurler got Jake Cave to swing and miss an 88 mph split fingered fast ball, the second time Cave had struck out in as many at bats, but it wasn’t the third out. The third strike was a wild pitch, and now there were two men on base. But Montás got Brent Rocker to swing at a third strike, and this time it was definitive.
Minnesota was up 4-3, but it was a dry and fairly warm day at the Coliseum. Perfect weather for a Lowrie double and an Olson homer. And that’s how Oakland took a 5-4 lead. Seth Brown joined the long ball parade, sending a an 81 mph slider (what else?) just inside the right field foul pole and driving in Murphy, who had singled, and upping the A’s advantage to 7-4. It Brown’s third home run and gave him five RBI for the season.
Maeda didn’t answer the bell for the fourth. He had pitched three innings, allowing seven runs, all earned, on eight hits and a hit batter. He notched one strike out. 37 of his 51 pitches were strikes, his ERA blossomed to 6.11, and he was on the hook for the loss, but neither starting pitcher ended up involved in the decision. Tyler Duffey (0-0-0,4.50) came in to pitch.
Cruz closed the gap between the teams to 7-5 by sending a liner just over the glove of a leaping Laureano in front of the Stream Your A’s sign in center field. That gave him six HRs and 13 RBIs.
After Byron Buxton’s grounder slipped under Lowrie’s glove, beating the shift for a single, that was it for Montás. He left mound duties to J.B. Wendelkin (0-0-0,3.52), who gave up a seeing eye single to right by Polanco that allowed Buxton to go all the way to third.
Brown’s errant throw towards that base permitted Polanco’s advance to second. After Astudillio grounded out to Andrus, who held the runners in place, Jake Cave hit a grounder to the right side of a drawn-in infield and Lowrie’s legs that tied the game.
Montás had not pitched well in his four inning outing. He was charged with six runs, and all were earned. (The unearned run on Lowrie’s error was charged to Wendelken). That brought his ERA up to 6.75. He served up three longs balls. He didn’t walk anyone. He had four strike outs to his credit, one of them on a wild pitch. 56 of his 76 offerings were strikes.
The pitching merry-go-round had begun. Randy Dobnak threw a 1-2-3 fiftlh inning for the Twins in the fifth. Sergio Romo gave up two straight singles to the top of the Twins batting order in the sixth. He did retire Cruz on a grounder to Andrus, but that brought in the leading run for Minnesota.
Polanco’s single to left gave them a two run advantage, and, after Polanco stolen second, Astudillo’s single put them three runs ahead. Adam Kolarek came in and finally stopped the hemoraging. So much for yesterday’s two shutouts!
It was Hansel Robles who pitched the sixth for the visitors. He threw 27 pitches and left with two outs and two on. Laureano almost tied the score on him, sending a 3-1 pitch down the left field line only to land in the seats in foul territory. He eventually fanned for the second out.
That brought in Taylor Rogers, who gave up a two run double to right center and then closed the door on the A’s thanks to brilliant diving catch in left center by Byron Buxton of a blast by Olson that would have reknotted the score.
The top of the seventh brought Yusmeiro Petit to the mound to try keeping the deficit at 10-9. With a little help from a pitcher’s best friend (this time, Chapman to Lowrie, to Olson) he did. He kept the Twins off the board in the eigthth as well. Taylor Rogers also kept his opponents off the board in his two innings of work, thanks to a double play in the seventh. He didn’t need that sort of help in the eighth, striking out the side.
Lou Trivino pitched the ninth for the A’s, hoping, like Petit, to hold the line at 10 to 9. He struck out the first two batters he faced, Cave and Rocker. But Ryan Jeffers doubled down the line to left, and Arraez managed to wrangle a full count walk to bring up the dangerous Donaldson, hitting .558 as he came to bat. Trivino went to 3-2 on him as well before inducing a fly out to right.
It was time for Alex Colomé, the Twin Cities’ closer, to make his first appearance of the series. He hit Laureano with a pitch and got Lowrie out on a hooking fly to left. Olson’s sharp single to right just eluded the diving grasp of Arraez at second and sent the speedy Laureano to third with the potelntial tying run. Minnesota brought its infield in with Chapman at bat.
He almost won the game with a fly that landed over the 811 sign, just to the right of the right field foul pole. Instead, he tied it up with a sacrifice fly (actually a line drive) to left that brought Laureano home. Piscotty was at bat with a count of 1-1, and then, and then … Olson got picked off, 1-3-4 to send the game into extra innings.
Rocco Baldelli’s managerial gears began spinning. He sent in Travis Blankenhorn to run for Donaldson, who had been placed at second base. He also inserted Mitch Garver to hit for Cruz. Garver struck out, but Byron Bluxton unloaded a blast into the walkway separating the upper and lower portions of the outfield seats. After Polanco flew out to the center field warning track, Deolis Guerra relieved Trivino and ended the inning by getting Astudillo to pop out to first.
Colomé had a two run lead to work with in the bottom of the tenth. He got his first two men out but then walked Brown, who joined Chapman on the base paths, at least until, moments later, Tony Kemp replaced him at first. Andrus kept the A’s hopes alive by drawing a 3-2 walk to load the bases and bring Canha to the plate. Canha grounded to Blankenhorn, now playing second, who fumbled the ball, letting PIscotty score and leaving the bases loaded.
Laureano came up, 0-4 and needing a single to win the game for Oakland. Instead, he hit a sharp grounder to third. The A’s goose seemed well and truely cooked. But the Golden Glove winning Donaldson wasn’t there. He’d been replaced by Arraez when Blankenhorn stayed in the game to play second. Arraez, playing an unfamiliar position, threw the ball away, and the tying and winning runs came in to give the A’s the win, the series sweep, a 7-0 homestand, and an 11 game winning streak. Baldelli would seem to have outstrategized himself.
The win went to Guerra. He’s 1-0, 1.42. The loss was charged to Colomé. He´s 1-2, with three blown saves and an ERA of 5.63
The A’s have a day off tomorrow as they travel east for a three game series in Baltimore and a four game set-to at Tampa Bay. The A’s return to the Coliseum on April 30 to face the Orioles at 6:40.