BY J.A. SCHWARTZ
A line drive single by Khris Davis off Twins closer Taylor Rogers with two out in the ninth inning led the A’s to a dramatic, come from behind 5-4 victory in Minneapolis Saturday night as Oakland celebrated their second straight victory over the first place Twins with yet another riveting late inning rally. It was the 21st victory for the A’s in their last 26 games.
Mitch Garver hit the second pitch from Brett Anderson in the first inning out of the ballpark 410 feet to right center to give the Twins an early lead. One out later, 39-year-old Nelson Cruz hit another first pitch changeup from Anderson 436 feet over the center field wall, a titanic blast with 107 MPH exit velocity to give Minnesota a quick 2-0 lead. Miguel Sano then drilled a double to left on a slider, but Anderson got groundouts to second base from Marwin Gonzalez and C.J. Cron to limit further damage before settling down to keep the Twins off the scoreboard into the seventh.
The A’s finally broke through in the seventh. Marcus Semien walked to start the inning, his second free pass of the night. After a Matt Chapman pop out to first, Zack Littell came in to strike out Matt Olson on a 95 MPH heater. Mark Canha then crushed a slider 424 feet for an upper deck home run to left to tie the score.
It wouldn’t stay tied for long, however, as Ramon Laureano followed with his 20th home run of the season, an opposite field blast on an 0-2 fastball that got too much of the plate, giving the A’s a 3-2 lead. It was the eighth time this season the A’s have hit back-to-back home runs.
On the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon, Sano led off the bottom of the seventh with a 434 foot moon shot of his own into the third deck in left on a full count slider from Anderson, tying the score at 3-3. That ended the evening for Anderson, who pitched six strong innings, but was denied a chance at a victory by allowing three solo home runs to right handed hitters Garver, Cruz and Sano.
Yusmeiro Petit came in to get one out, but allowed Cron to reach on a single to left, setting the stage for southpaw Ryan Buchter to face the left-handed Max Kepler with the go-ahead run at first. On the ninth pitch of the at bat Kepler foiled the matchup strategy, lining a single to right. Jonathan Schoop then blooped a short fly ball to left, requiring Robbie Grossman to sprint towards the line to make a running catch. But he was unable to set his feet to throw, and his attempt to nab Ehire Adrianza (who had pinch run for the slower Cron earlier in the inning) tagging on the play was high and well wide of the plate, allowing the Twins to take a 4-3 lead. Buchter then picked off Kepler to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
Minnesota reliever Taylor Rogers, who had thrown two innings Thursday night to close out the Twins victory, got Chapman to ground to Schoop, who ranged far to his left to retire the A’s leadoff man in the ninth. Olson then struck out on a 96 MPH fastball, and the A’s were down to their last out. But Canha was then drilled for the second time, allowing the red-hot Laureano a chance to bat, and he lined a double down the left field line, with Canha wisely held at third. Khris Davis then lined the next pitch off Adrianza’s glove at first, and as the ball rolled onto the outfield grass, both Canha and Laureano scored to give the A’s a 5-4 lead. Adrianza had stayed in the game defensively, but couldn’t come up with the 106 MPH liner off the bat of Davis, and the A’s had rallied to take the lead off the Twins closer after being down tom their final out with nobody on.
Liam Hendriks came on to close it out for the second time in two nights, but unlike Friday, the Twins would not go quietly. Hendriks had pitched 1 2/3 innings last night, throwing 20 pitches while striking out three without allowing a batter to reach base. He fanned Adrianza on a slider to start the frame before Kepler singled to right. Schoop followed with a bullet just inches over Chapman’s leaping effort into the left field corner for a double, but Kepler was held at third base. Eddie Rosario (who hit a pinch-hit three-run home run to fuel the Twins win on Thursday), pinch-hitting for Luis Arraez, was intentionally walked, setting the stage for a bases loaded showdown with Garver, who had already homered leading off the bottom of the first. Hendriks got Garver to ground his first pitch to Semien, who turned an easy double play to end the game. Blake Treinen (3-3) picked up the victory, with Hendriks recording his eighth save of the season.
The victory allowed the A’s to remain 5 1/2 games behind the first place Astros in the AL West, and extended their lead in the Wild Card race to two games over Tampa Bay. The four game series concludes Sunday afternoon as Daniel Mengden (5-1, 4.21) faces off against Michael Pineda (6-5, 4.38) at 11:05AM.
With the win, the A’s clinched the regular season series against Minnesota which could serve as a tiebreaker for home-field advantage should they meet in the postseason. If both teams are division winners or wild cards tied with the same record, Oakland would have the home-field advantage. If one team were a division winner and the other a wildcard, the division winner would have the home-field advantage even if it had an inferior record.
Oakland has now homered in 20 consecutive games, the second most in A’s history. The longest streak was 23 games in July 1996.
Anderson left the game with a blister on his left middle finger after 81 pitches, and is listed as day-to-day. He now ranks second in the AL in night ERA at 2.75. This was his 20th start of the year, his most since 2015 when he made 31 with the Dodgers.
Hendriks leads all MLB relievers in ERA at 0.84, and has a 20.2 scoreless inning streak.
Laureano is hitting .330/.372/.640 with 14 HRs and 37 RBI since May 16th. His arm has been responsible for saving 7.2 runs through July 15, the best among all MLB outfielders .
Saturday night was Semien’s 180th consecutive game.
Chapman already has 22 HRs in 2019. He had a career high 24 last year.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Twins led all of baseball with 178 HRs, and are on pace to hit 300 long balls, eclipsing the record of 267, set last year by the New York Yankees. The Twins added to that total Saturday night, launching three more home runs into the atmosphere.