Although the Oakland Athletics got another victory over the Minnesota Twins, their new closer imploded again.
The A’s, who are keeping quiet on if they have a closer controversy, look to extend their win streak over the Twins to nine in Thursday’s series finale at Target Field.
Oakland (5-3) looked like it was going to cruise to an easy victory Wednesday, scoring four runs before recording an out. The A’s managed just one hit over the next nine innings, however, and the Twins (3-5) rallied for two runs off Jim Johnson in the ninth to force extras.
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Johnson, who had 50 saves for Baltimore last season to tie for the major league lead, has been hit hard in three of five appearances. He has an 18.90 ERA in 3 1-3 innings, a .615 opponent on-base percentage and one blown save.
Manager Bob Melvin pulled Johnson for the second time but declined to speculate on whether his job was in jeopardy.
Derek Norris picked Johnson up, hitting a three-run homer in the 11th inning to power Oakland to a 7-4 win.
”When someone doesn’t come through the next guy comes up and fills in for him. … It’s a nice chemistry we have here for that to happen,” Norris said.
The A’s have won 13 of 15 against the Twins and are trying to win nine straight in the series for the first time since Aug. 13, 1980-April 22, 1981.
Both starters for Thursday shined early in their season debuts until serving up a pair of home runs.
Oakland’s Dan Straily (0-1, 4.50 ERA) had the tough task of opposing Seattle’s Felix Hernandez on Saturday, and he matched zeros with the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner through four innings. In the fifth, he surrendered two homers and was removed after throwing six innings in a 3-1 loss.
”It was disappointing,” said the right-hander, who struck out seven and walked one. ”I did a good job of executing the game plan minus those two pitches.”
Mike Pelfrey (0-1, 5.06) was perfect through the first four innings in Cleveland on Friday and carried a one-hitter into the sixth before quickly unraveling. He only got one more out while yielding a pair of homers and issuing three walks before being removed. Pelfrey was charged with three runs in a 7-2 loss.
”It kind of ruins the whole day, no matter how the first four innings went,” he said. ”The game got away from me. It was kind of like a kick in the stomach.”
The right-hander’s lone start against Oakland may be described similarly. Pelfrey was tagged for seven runs and eight hits in three-plus innings of an 18-3 loss Sept. 11.
That dud came at Target Field, where Pelfrey had a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts last season. Another 1 2-3 innings pitched in Minneapolis in 2013, and he would have qualified as having the majors’ worst home ERA.
Straily will be making his first appearance at Target Field, and in his only start against the Twins on Sept. 19, he gave up three runs and three hits in 5 2-3 innings while not receiving a decision in an 8-6 win.
This will be his first time facing Jason Kubel, who hit his first home run since rejoining the Twins on Wednesday. He finished with four hits and is 10 for 18 in his last four games.
Oakland’s Brandon Moss drove in two runs Wednesday to give him seven RBIs in his last three games, and he’s 4 for 7 against Pelfrey.