By Matthew Harrington
For the Oakland Athletics, Monday afternoon’s 8-3 pasting of the Minnesota Twins offered a reversal of fates for the green and gold. After setting an MLB record for first-day futility with their tenth-straight Opening Day loss last Monday, the A’s (4-3) played spoiler to the Twin City faithful excited to take in their home team for the first time in 2014.
Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss knocked in a pair of runs each, Derek Norris connected on his first homer of the season and Scott Kazmir (2-0, 2.03 ERA) fired six innings of three-run ball to pick up his second win on the season.
The A’s opened the scoring in the top of the second after Moss walked to lead off then scored on a Cespedes double to left field. Alberto Callaspo, getting the start at designated hitter Monday, singled softly to right to advance Cespedes to third. Right fielder Josh Reddick plated Cespedes on a base hit, his first RBI of the season.
Minnesota (3-4) cut the lead by one in the bottom half of the inning off Kazmir when former Oakland backstop Kurt Suzuki singled sharply to left with one out. Center fielder Aaron Hicks doubled to his counterpart to push Suzuki across the plate.
After losing track of the count on a 2-2 pitch with one down in the top of the third, A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie tried taking a base-on-balls one pitch too early. After already removing his equipment to jog to first, Lowrie was informed of his mistake and returned to the plate for the full-count delivery. Lowrie launched the 3-2 Correia change up down the right field line for what appeared to be a homerun to the naked eye. The ruling on the field, upheld after a lengthy video review, confirmed the ball had gone just foul. After being denied the long ball, Lowrie settled for a walk on the next pitch.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, flip-flopping with Lowrie in the batting order to bat third for the first time this season, doubled on a fly ball to right to put runners at second and third. Moss followed him up by wrapping a one-out single for a 4-1 A’s advantage. After Yoenis Cespedes popped out to Aaron Hicks, Callaspo doubled in Moss to cap the three-run inning.
Minnesota completed its scoring for the day in the bottom half of the inning. After Trevor Plouffe singled to open the frame then league RBI leader Chris Colabello took a four-pitch walk. Kazmir induced a line-drive out off the bat of Josmil Pinto, advancing Plouffe to third on the play. Jason Kubel ripped a run-scoring double to right field, then Suzuki bounced into an RBI groundout to plate Colabello cutting Oakland’s edge to 5-3 after three innings.
With two down in the sixth Norris launched the first pitch he saw from Correia to deep center field for his first home run of the season, a solo blast that chased the Twins starter and put the A’s ahead 6-1.
Despite entering the season with the expectation that Norris would sit against right-handed pitching in favor of the left-handed hitting John Jaso, Norris now has hits in 5-of-9 at-bats against righties this season. He also handled same-handed pitchers with ease in Spring Training to a .354 batting average.
The A’s added a pair in the seventh inning after Twins reliever Samuel Deduno balked home Nick Punto from third with an out before Cespedes’ sacrifice fly brought Josh Donaldson around from third. Despite the blip, Deduno pitched well in relief of Correia (0-1, 6.17 ERA). After the Twins started got knocked out of the game on Norris’ homer, Deduno pitched the final 3 1/3 innings allowing two earned runs.
A’s lefty Scott Kazmir followed up his no-run debut by rattling off six innings of six-hit baseball. He allowed three runs, all earned, and struck out five batters while yielding four walks. Fernando Abad and Dan Otero pitched scoreless innings apiece before Ryan Cook sealed the win by shutting the Twins down in the ninth.
Cook missed the A’s first six games with a strained shoulder forcing him to the disabled list for the season’s first week. Though he didn’t allow a run Monday, Cook opened his 2014 campaign with a somewhat shaky start. He got shortstop Pedro Florimon to strike out on a pitch in the dirt, then issued back-to-back walks to Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. After a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, Cook retired Plouffe on a popout then finished Colabello off with a punch-out to seal the win.
The A’s will take their first scheduled off-day Tuesday although they have already had two games postponed due to weather-related circumstances. On Wednesday, Jesse Chavez will look to build on his six-inning, one-run performance that yielded a no decision Thursday evening. The A’s ultimately walked off in the 12th inning on Coco Crisp’s first-ever walk-off home run. Chavez will be countered by righty Phil Hughes. The White Sox roughed Hughes up in his first start of 2014, scoring four runs including a pair of long balls over five innings.