Gonsalves improves in second start, but Twins fall 6-2

MINNEAPOLIS — Jonathan Lucroy and Mike Fiers have adjusted quickly to being battery mates again, to the benefit of Oakland’s playoff hopes.

Lucroy homered and drove in four runs, Fiers pitched effectively into the sixth inning, and Oakland beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 on Saturday night, maintaining the Athletics’ hold on the second wild-card spot.

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Lucroy, who caught Fiers in Milwaukee many times over almost five seasons, had an RBI single in the first and a three-run homer in the fourth as the Athletics kept at least a four-game lead over Seattle in the wild-card chase. The Mariners were playing at Arizona on Saturday night. Oakland entered 1 1/2 games behind front-running Houston in the American League West.

Fiers (10-6) allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two to improve to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from Detroit on Aug. 6.

“He threw really well,” Lucroy said. “He just mixed pretty much the whole game. We didn’t really have a specific game plan. Really, it wasn’t about just throwing strikes, it was working ahead and mixing. He did well and gave us a chance to win.”

Stephen Gonsalves (0-2) gave up four runs and seven hits, walking four and striking out two in his second career start.

“I was looking forward to keep going and build up from the first start, and I think we did that,” Gonsalves said. “We got through five, and my change up was there for the most part. Unfortunately most of my other pitches weren’t there, but I think we did well. One pitch – kind of cut that changeup into Lucroy, and we knew he swinging 0-0, and I just missed my spot.”

Lucroy put Oakland up 4-0 with his third homer. With one out, Chad Pinder and Mark Canha singled, but Pinder was thrown out at third on a perfect strike from right-fielder Jake Cave. Ramon Laureano walked and Lucroy sent the first pitch over the wall in left-center.

“I’ve seen him be an All-Star and hit .300,” Fiers said of Lucroy. “Baseball is a tough game. It’s tough to do that on a yearly basis, but he’s still one of the best catchers in this league. Just the way he handles the pitching staff and he still comes up with these big hits. He came up with a big one today.”

Miguel Sano countered in the bottom half with his 12th homer, a 460-foot solo shot into the upper deck in left.

Tyler Austin’s 12th home run off Lou Trivino with one out in the seventh pulled the Twins to 4-2.

Oakland pushed the lead to 6-2 in the eighth on consecutive two-out RBI doubles by Matt Olson and Laureano.

“We kept fighting, we couldn’t figure out Fiers particularly well except for Miggy getting ahold of one, which was good to see,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s just one of those teams right now the way they’re playing, the way they’re pitching, it’s a tough team to come back against.”

The Athletics took a 1-0 lead in the second when Pinder singled, Laureano walked and Lucroy lined a two-out single to left.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen so far from Fiers.

“Maybe he battled his command a little bit today, but finds a way to make a pitch when he has to,” Melvin said. “He’s been a terrific pick-up for us in the fact that every time he goes out there, not only do we have a great chance to win, the guys feel like we have a great chance to win, too. He’s fit in really well.”

THOME HONORED

Jim Thome, inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, was recognized at a pregame ceremony. Thome played almost two full seasons with the Twins in 2010 and 2011, hitting his 600th home run with Minnesota. He hit 25 home runs in 2010 to help the Twins to the Central Division title.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (recovering Tommy John surgery) had his Monday rehab start with Triple-A Rochester canceled due to irritation in his right knee, manager Paul Molitor said. Pineda is scheduled to return to Minnesota for an MRI.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Chris Bassitt (2-3, 3.38) will be called up from Nashville to start the series finale Sunday. Bassitt has been up five times previously, making six starts. He won his last start with Oakland on July 11, allowing three runs on five hits in five innings.

Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (11-8, 3.69) is making 27th start of the season, but first career start against Oakland. Berrios is 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in four August starts, but has not lasted past the fifth inning in his previous three starts.