Home > Uncategorized > Baker, Twins unable to solve A’s in finale

Baker, Twins unable to solve A’s in finale

April 10, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — After a couple of pitchers’ duels in the first two games between the Twins and A’s, the bats finally came alive in Sunday’s series finale. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Twins’ outburst came too late in a 5-3 loss.

The Twins hit the ball as well as they have all season, collecting 10 hits in the game, but aside from a big eighth inning, they were never able to string any hits together.

“They were spread out pretty thin,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve just got to get swinging better. It’s frustrating for the guys, but we kept battling, and at least we had a look in the last inning there.”

Jim Thome provided the highlight of the game for the Twins in the eighth, driving a 1-0 pitch from reliever Jerry Blevins out deep to center field for a two-run homer that cut the lead to 5-3. Estimated at 444 feet, the blast was the 590th of Thome’s career, and certainly one of the longest.

With the two RBI, Thome passed Harold Baines for 29th on baseball’s all-time list with 1,629 for his career. But it didn’t mean a whole lot to the left-handed slugger without the win.

“I wish it had tied the game,” Thome said. “You want to win the ballgame, that’s the most important thing.”

Even so, Thome’s teammates were impressed by the blast.

“It was a bomb,” said Michael Cuddyer, who played second base Sunday for the Twins. “I think I’ve seen two balls in BP go over the batter’s eye, and obviously that was the first one to go over in a game. The guy never ceases to amaze you, that’s for sure.”

While the Twins struggled to score runs in the first two games of the series, their pitching kept them in it, as Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn delivered strong performances against the A’s. On Sunday, right-hander Scott Baker didn’t quite get the job done, making the offensive struggles even more troublesome.

Baker (0-2) struggled to keep the ball in the park for the second straight outing, giving up four runs on seven hits over five-plus innings, including a pair of towering home runs.

Those struggles began in the fourth, when Baker surrendered a leadoff home run to A’s designated hitter Hideki Matsui. Baker looked to be back in control until Josh Willingham crushed a 2-2 pitch into the second deck in left field to lead off the sixth inning.

Ryan Sweeney and Mark Ellis followed with a single and double, respectively, prompting Gardenhire to go to his bullpen. Reliever Jeff Manship was not much better, however, as he walked the first batter he faced and gave up a sacrifice fly to center field before a Landon Powell double chased him from the game.

“It happens pretty quick,” Baker said of the game slipping away from him. “I was a couple pitches away from having a decent outing. Obviously, the line doesn’t look great, but I made some pitches when I needed to. I just fell a little short.”

The two teams had combined for just four runs through the first two games of the series at Target Field, with neither team collecting an RBI in Saturday’s game. On Sunday, the A’s put up four runs in the sixth inning alone on their way to taking the series from the Twins.

Baker was outdueled by A’s starter Brandon McCarthy, who was impressive over 7 1/3 innings of work. For the third straight game, the Twins simply could not manage much offense against the A’s starting pitching, as McCarthy struck out five batters while scattering nine hits and allowing two runs.

Oakland’s starters entered Sunday with the second-lowest ERA in baseball and the lowest in the American League at 2.47, having allowed just 15 earned runs over 54 2/3 innings. In the series, Twins hitter were kept off balance, as all three A’s starters used great breaking balls to get outs.

“All three of these guys dove the ball hard with their snapper and made it really tough on us,” Gardenhire said. “They showed some good control with their breaking balls and then located the fastball pretty decently. We saw that with all three pitchers we faced this series. It kind of made it tough on us. That’s a good staff over there, one of the better ones you’ll see.”

Aside from Thome’s eighth-inning homer, one of the few bright spots in the game for the Twins was the 3-for-4 performance by first baseman Justin Morneau. With a pair of bloop singles and a double, Morneau posted his first three-hit game since June 23, 2010, boosting his batting average from .185 to .258.

Even with 10 hits in the game, the Twins are hitting just .214 (63-for-295) for the season. Thome’s home run was the first for the Twins since April 3 at Toronto, breaking a 210-at-bat homerless streak.

After an off-day Monday, the Twins hope to use the late success they had in this game and build upon it to get the offense back on track.

“Sometimes you come one day and it all clicks in,” Thome said. “Next thing you know, you’re scoring runs earlier in the ballgame and winning some games. And that’s where we need to get back to. We’ve got a lot of good hitters. Our hitters, everybody’s very talented, we just need to get rockin’ and rollin’ here.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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