Athletics 9, Twins 3
The Oakland Athletics have surged out of the All-Star break with a home-run binge that might even make those old Bash Brothers teams proud.
The best part for the A's? They've even managed to creep into the American League wild-card race.
Chris Carter and Yoenis Cespedes each homered and drove in three runs, powering the A's past the Minnesota Twins 9-3 on Saturday.
''We wouldn't expect anything less,'' said Seth Smith, who also went deep along with Brandon Moss to beat Cole De Vries (2-2) and back Tommy Milone (9-6).
The A's (45-43) won for the eighth time in nine games to match their season high above the .500 mark, last done two months ago when they were 19-17.
The A's have gone deep at least once in 19 of their past 20 games and won 23 of their past 36.
''I feel like it's getting more consistent. We know that it's there, and it's nice to see,'' Milone said.
This team can't be confused with the juggernaut A's clubs of the late 1980s and early 1990s led by Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, but despite a majors-worst batting average of .226 they're in the middle of the pack in home runs with 88 in 88 games.
''The guys at the top set the table. Then you move on down the lineup,'' Smith said. ''It's pretty deep.''
The ball was flying all over Target Field on this steamy night, tying the single-game record for the three-year-old stadium, as the A's out-homered the Twins 4-2.
''We put some charges into the ball and were able to get them out of here. It's a big park, so there aren't really any cheap homers,'' said Smith, whose solo shot in the fifth was estimated at 432 feet. He added: ''Sometimes you get all of it.''
That's easier to do when the ball comes down the middle of the plate at the batter's belt.
De Vries had his ERA soar from 3.00 to 4.37, and the right-hander has allowed nine homers in 35 innings.
''Everything he threw was up,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins had 14 hits and every starter had at least one, but they still lost their fourth in a row. Brian Dozier and Josh Willingham each homered, but twice the Twins were thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single.
Trailing 8-2, the Twins had the bases loaded and none out in the sixth after Trevor Plouffe's RBI single. But that threat fizzled after a fielder's choice dribbler back to the mound and an inning-ending double play grounder. Joe Mauer hit into a double play, too, with runners at second and third in the seventh after Ben Revere ran right into the tag.
Milone turned in the latest strong start by this young, surging A's rotation, which has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of the past 11 games. He allowed 10 hits but only two runs and one walk while striking out four in six innings. He's second in the league in wins by a rookie this season, behind Yu Darvish.
With Coco Crisp resting because of a sore left shoulder he aggravated swinging the bat and Cespedes still relegated to designated hitter duty due to a sprained left thumb, the A's moved Josh Reddick from right field to center, gave their first baseman Moss his first start of the season in right and put the recent call-up Carter at first.
The mild lineup shuffle helped create quite the power surge, the night after Jonny Gomes hit a grand slam to beat Francisco Liriano.
De Vries pitched seven shutout innings at Texas right before the All-Star break, but his sixth major league start was more like a batting practice session.
Even the outs were hit hard by the A's. De Vries got two quick outs before a sharp single by Reddick and a double off the wall by Cespedes that bounced past Revere's outstretched glove and ricocheted back to hit the right fielder in the collarbone after a mistimed jump.
''He's a strong human being,'' Revere said. ''The pitch was low and away, and I thought it'd be routine. It kept going.''
Then De Vries plunked Moss, and two pitches later Carter hit his three-run shot to make it 4-0 and establish the theme for the evening. De Vries lasted five innings, giving up seven runs.
NOTES: A's LHP Brett Anderson marked the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. He's expected to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday, another significant step in his recovery. ... LH Brian Duensing (1-5, 4.11 ERA) takes the mound on 10 days of rest for the Twins in Sunday's series finale. He left his last start in the fifth inning after being hit by a batted ball on the left ankle. RH Jarrod Parker (5-4, 2.86), whose .216 opponent batting average is the lowest among rookies in the majors with 70-plus innings, pitches for the A's. ... Willingham, well on his way to surpassing his career high of 29 homers, has gone deep five times in five games this year against his former team. He has 22.