MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Oakland Athletics can win a lot of different ways, as evidenced by their two-year hold on the AL West division title.
Yoenis Cespedes proved he can play through a hurting right heel, giving Scott Kazmir and the A’s a spark with a pair of RBI that helped spoil the Minnesota Twins’ home opener with an 8-3 victory on Monday.
"When we’re swinging well, we feel like we have a deep lineup," A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Cespedes has been hobbling around the last few days with the injury, but the team wasn’t worried enough about it to hold him out. The Cuban slugger followed a leadoff walk to Brandon Moss by crushing a double in the second inning for the first run against Kevin Correia (0-1) and hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Moss added a two-run single in the third and Derek Norris homered in the sixth.
"Everyone knows their strengths and they don’t go outside of their game, and I think that’s what makes us a great overall ballclub and very deadly down the stretch of the whole season," Norris said.
Jed Lowrie hit what the A’s believed was a home run down the right-field line in the third inning, but the call on the field was a foul ball and the umpire-initiated review, which lasted more than four minutes, upheld the ruling. Lowrie took a walk instead and later scored.
Kazmir (2-0), who stymied with Twins in five starts against them last season for Cleveland, completed six innings with six hits, three runs and four walks allowed. He struck out five, and RBI doubles by Aaron Hicks and Jason Kubel were the only damaging hits against him. This wasn’t his best, but Kazmir got enough quick outs to stay in there.
"Not very efficient with my pitches, but there’s going to be days like that so I need to be able to battle. To get six out of that, that’s something you can build on," he said.
The 30-year-old Kazmir dazzled in his A’s debut with 7 1/3 scoreless innings last week against his old team, the Indians. He did the same against the Twins in 2013, going 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings with 36 strikeouts.
With Jarrod Parker, a 12-game winner last year, out for the season following elbow ligament replacement surgery and A.J. Griffin not yet ready because of a spring arm injury, the rotation took a hit. Kazmir, then, is that much more valuable.
Oh, and so is the lineup.
"All the way through, guys are taking quality at-bats and really working the starting pitcher early in the game. That goes a long way as far as getting the win," Kazmir said.
Correia came out with two outs in the sixth. He yielded nine hits, six runs and two walks while striking out three.
"He started pounding inside a bit better and his last couple innings were better because of that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But you can’t just stay out and over the plate on these guys."
Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick also drove in runs for the A’s, who played without center fielder Coco Crisp because of a sore left wrist. Norris, Callaspo and Josh Donaldson each had two hits.
"I just threw a couple bad pitches in situations where I had a chance to get out of a jam," Correia said. "That’s what I’ve been able to do the last couple years."
Notes: Lowrie was hit by a pitch on the lower right leg in the seventh inning and was in too much pain to stay in the game. Nick Punto, who played seven seasons for the Twins, entered as a pinch runner and eventually scored on a balk by Sam Deduno. . . . The Athletics made a bullpen shuffle before the game, reinstating RH Ryan Cook from the disabled list and sending RH Evan Scribner to Triple-A Sacramento. Cook, who was out with shoulder tendinitis, pitched the ninth. . . . The Twins have brought evergreen trees back to the decor, a lighter-colored variety of juniper now planted behind the center field seats high above the field. When the ballpark opened in 2010, the popular-with-fans dark spruce trees that stood in front of the black batter’s eye prompted complaints from hitters and were taken out. . . . Attendance was announced at 35,837, more than 3,000 below official capacity. . . . The three-game series resumes on Wednesday afternoon, with RH Jesse Chavez (0-0, 1.50 ERA) pitching for the A’s against Twins RH Phil Hughes (0-0, 7.20 ERA). . . . In support of Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who is undergoing radiation treatment for the disease, the teams wore Stand Up To Cancer patches on their uniform, reflecting one of Major League Baseball’s favored charities.