Twins rally, but A’s win in 11
MINNEAPOLIS — Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris showed last season that he has plenty of pop in his bat. On Wednesday, he proved it again.
Norris’ three-run homer with one out in the top of the 11th inning lifted the A’s to a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
After homering nine times in 264 at-bats last season, Norris hit his second home run of the series, crushing a 2-1 fastball from Twins reliever Jared Burton over the left field wall. His extra-innings blast picked up embattled closer Jim Johnson, who squandered a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, blowing his second save in three opportunities this season.
“Just sticking with an approach of just seeing something out over the plate and not trying to do too much with it,” Norris said. “Just try to hit a nice line drive and drive a run in and, fortunately, I got underneath it a little bit and it carried out of the ballpark.”
A four-run first inning staked Oakland to a quick lead against Twins starter Phil Hughes, making his Target Field debut.
Hughes walked A’s center fielder Sam Fuld and shortstop Jed Lowrie to start the game before giving up a towering RBI double to third baseman Josh Donaldson, a two-run single to first baseman Brandon Moss, a double to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and a run-scoring single to designated hitter Alberto Callaspo — all before securing an out. Hughes got a strikeout and a double play to limit the damage to four runs.
“A combination of some jitters, over-throwing and not being able to find the strike zone,” Hughes said. “I pride myself a lot of times in throwing strikes and not walking guys and that wasn’t the case with the first two.”
Donaldson said, “That’s what you try and do as an offense. But we have to continue to try and put teams away. We weren’t able to do that today. Give credit to their team because they fought back hard.”
Hughes settled down after his shaky first inning, allowing only two hits and a walk in his final four innings. His final line: Five innings, five hits, four runs (all earned) with three walks and three strikeouts.
“Early was not very pretty,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “(Hughes) had a little bit of a tough time finding the strike zone and got in trouble early in the first inning, I think 50 pitches. I haven’t seen that too many times. But his innings after that were pretty good. He actually just settled down and started pitching rather than just throwing the ball and muscling it.”
On the other side, Oakland starter Jesse Chavez was on cruise control. A career reliever making his fourth-ever start in the big leagues, Chavez pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run and six hits while striking out nine and walking none. His lone blemish was a home run by Twins left fielder Jason Kubel to lead off the second.
“It was OK. I’d like to have the pitch back to Kubel,” Chavez said. “Just getting ahead. That’s the big key for me. If I can get ahead, I’m better likely to succeed that way.”
The Twins got another solo home run in the eighth from second baseman Brian Dozier to make it 4-2, setting up their ninth-inning rally.
Dan Otero pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the 11th, to pick up his first win of the season. Burton was charged with the loss.
The victory pushed Oakland’s winning streak against Minnesota to eight games. The two teams wrap up a three-game series on Thursday afternoon.