For the last few years, the Minnesota Twins have been known for promising young pitching and playing small ball.
On Saturday, those things did the Twins in and further dimmed their chances for catching Detroit in the AL Central.
Brett Anderson threw seven sharp innings and Cliff Pennington had three hits with an RBI as the Oakland Athletics won for the fifth time in six games, beating the Twins 4-2.
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Less than 24 hours after routing Minnesota with a season-high five home runs, the A’s showed the Twins their own style of small ball by making the most of a relatively quiet day at the plate. They drew walks, stole bases, advanced runners and scored on sac-flies.
Anderson (9-10) retired 18 of 24 batters, including the final eight he faced, and didn’t allow a walk for the fourth time this season to win his second-consecutive start.
“He was fantastic,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “He’s had a few really good outing this year. This is in the top two or three, that’s for sure.”
Michael Wuertz pitched a scoreless eighth for Oakland and Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.
Oakland held Minnesota’s two best hitters – AL batting leader Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau – to just one hit in seven at-bats.
“Any time you hold those guys to one hit, it limits their offense,” Anderson said. “So I feel pretty good about that.”
Twins rookie Jeff Manship (0-1) lasted four innings in his third-career start, charged with four runs off three hits and three walks.
Pennington was the only one to drive in a run with a hit when his double in the second inning scored Daric Barton to give Oakland a 2-0 lead.
Despite the relatively quiet day at the plate, the A’s made the most of their chances; three of their six walks eventually scored and their five stolen bases tied a season high.
“When we get on, we’re going to make things happen. We’re not going to stand around,” Pennington said.
For the second-straight game, a young Oakland pitcher rendered Minnesota’s lineup harmless.
The Twins evened the game at 2-2 with runs in the third and fourth, but Oakland regained the lead for good by scoring two runs in the fifth without a hit. Reliever Jesse Crain walked Adam Kennedy to load the bases after Manship walked Eric Patterson and Pennington. Rajai Davis and Kurt Suzuki each followed with a sacrifice fly to give the A’s a two-run lead.
“After we tie the game and we walk three to load the bases, that’s pretty much going to shoot you,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You can’t give free passes in this league and expect to get away with it and there’s the ball game.”
Minnesota entered the game 5 1/2 games behind the slumping Tigers in the standings after blowing several chances over the past week to make up ground.
“We’re just not playing very good,” Morneau said. “It’s hard to describe it. We’re just not scoring runs like we were. The frustrating part is that we know we have the guys to do it.”
Athletics manager Bob Geren said RHP Vin Mazzaro felt “even better” after throwing Saturday, a day after throwing from 140 feet. Geren said Mazzaro may throw a bullpen session on Monday and that the goal is to have Mazzaro return to the mound before the end of the season. … Davis stole second in the first inning to become the first Oakland player to steal a base in four consecutive games since Stan Javier in 1995. He has a career-high 36 stolen bases this season. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he expects RHP Kevin Slowey, who had season-ending wrist surgery in August, to be ready for spring training.