The Oakland Athletics bullpen’s streak of scoreless innings is over. The team’s winning streak over the Minnesota Twins is not.
Baseball’s best team will try to complete a four-game sweep of the visiting Twins Sunday and extend its uninterrupted dominance in the series to 13 games.
Now a season-best 28 games over .500 after Saturday’s 9-4 victory, Oakland (72-44) is on pace to reach 100 wins for the first time since 2002. It has also won nine straight at home over Minnesota (51-64).
Derek Norris hit a three-run home run and ended the night with five RBIs, and Stephen Vogt connected on a two-run shot. Vogt is 4 for 10 with two homers and four RBIs in the series after going 0 for 21 over his previous six games.
The A’s have scored 15 runs in two games after totaling 14 in their previous five.
"We’ve been getting progressively better offensively the last few days," manager Bob Melvin said.
Oakland’s relievers had their record scoreless streak end at 29 2-3 when Dan Otero allowed two eighth-inning runs.
The Twins are trying to avoid their third five-game losing streak of the season as Jason Hammel faces Phil Hughes.
Hammel (1-4, 7.15 ERA) earned his first win with Oakland in Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay, surrendering seven hits while walking four in 5 2-3 innings, but he’s got a long way to go before getting his numbers back down to where they were with Chicago.
The right-hander went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts with the Cubs. With the A’s, he’s been hit at a .344 clip and walked 14 batters in 22 2-3 innings for a 2.07 WHIP and .423 opponents’ on-base percentage.
"I want to give these guys something to cheer about," Hammel told MLB’s official website. "Not that I have to validate or prove anything, but I know what I can do as a pitcher, and right now it’s that tough part of the season that you just got to get through. I’m going to continue to battle, continue to work hard, like I keep telling you guys. I’ll find myself and get right back into the swing of things."
Making matters worse is the top-scoring team in baseball hasn’t done him any favors with five runs of support in five starts for a 1.99 run support average after receiving a 4.06 RSA from the offensively challenged Cubs.
In five starts against Minnesota, Hammel is 2-1 with a 4.40 ERA. Former A’s Josh Willingham (5 for 16) and Kurt Suzuki (3 for 12) have both homered off him.
Hughes (11-8, 4.01) certainly hasn’t been devoid of toxicity, having allowed five runs or more in five of his last nine starts. Things were better in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over San Diego, in which he earned the decision while limiting the Padres to a run and seven hits in six innings. He matched a season high with nine strikeouts and might have gone longer had it not been for a cracked nail on his right index finger, a frequent consequence of his curveball.
"Take it easy on the bullpen days and use some super glue or whatever I have to do," Hughes said. "Usually it’s painful at the time, but it tends to grow out enough where it’s fine by my next start."
Eight career starts against Oakland have resulted in a 3-2 record and 5.08 ERA. Jed Lowrie (1 for 12), Josh Reddick (2 for 13), Jonny Gomes (1 for 9 with seven strikeouts) and Eric Sogard (0 for 8) have all struggled facing Hughes.
After the game, the Twins traded right-hander Kevin Correia to the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday for a player to be named or cash.