MINNEAPOLIS — The biggest question mark for the Twins entering the 2014 season was the lineup. Many wondered if Minnesota was going to be capable of scoring enough runs to compete.
For the first eight games of the 2014 season, the offense wasn’t a huge concern. Minnesota averaged 5.6 runs per game entering Thursday’s series finale against Oakland, aided by a pair of 10-run outings.
Minnesota’s offense hit a wall against right-hander Dan Straily and the A’s as the Twins managed one run on just three hits — and none after the second inning — in Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Oakland at Target Field.
"We ran into pretty good pitching performances," said Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, who was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in Thursday’s loss. "The A’s are kind of known for that. The guy out there today was pretty good. We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and try to get the guy on the mound tomorrow."
That guy on the mound Thursday for Straily, who stymied the Twins through seven innings in front of an announced crowd of 20,650. His only mistake came in the first inning when Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier tagged a pitch to left field for a solo homer — his third of the year — and an early 1-0 Twins lead.
Minnesota threatened in the bottom of the second inning when Jason Kubel led off with a long single high off the wall in right field that landed just a few feet shy of a home run. Josmil Pinto then singled to center, and Aaron Hicks’ groundout advanced Kubel to third and Pinto to second with two outs. But a fly ball by shortstop Eduardo Escobar ended the inning, and the Twins didn’t muster another hit the rest of the way.
Straily exited after the seventh inning and struck out five Twins batters while giving up just the one run to earn his first win of the year.
"Their kid threw the ball really well," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "Straily changed speeds. I think you saw the slow breaking balls and the deception with the fastball and moved the ball in and out and kept us off balance pretty much all day."
On a day when the offense amounted to very little, the Twins also got a poor performance from the starting pitching. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey allowed six runs on nine hits and four walks as his ERA through two games rose to 7.84.
Yet even on days when Minnesota’s pitching had struggled earlier this season, the bats were able to pick up at least some of the slack. That simply wasn’t the case Thursday as the Twins never threatened to do much damage against Straily and Oakland — which has now beaten Minnesota in nine straight games, dating back to last season.
"He kept a lot of pitches down," Kubel said. "He pretty much only made one mistake to Dozier and that was it."
The Twins were hoping their revamped starting rotation would help keep them in more games this year, but Minnesota’s starters have struggled early on. On the flip side, the Twins knew they’d need to get solid production from the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Chris Colabello and Dozier in order to score some runs.
Colabello and Plouffe had been two of Minnesota’s best hitters in the early going, while Dozier — who led the Twins with 18 home runs last year — is the only player on the roster with more than one homer.
Thanks to Thursday’s one-run performance, Minnesota finished its first home series of 2014 by scoring just eight total runs in three games. As a result, the Twins continue to search for their first home win of the season — and their first at Target Field since Sep. 23 of last year.
"It’s not the way it’s supposed to be," Gardenhire said. "It’s not like the guys aren’t trying. It’s just not working right now. We’ve got to figure out how to score runs and do our thing here. Yesterday was a great ball game. We had our chance. We had plenty of chances to win. Today, not so much."