(This is the game story that appeared in the Star Tribune on August 9, 1987)
For the third straight night in this crucial series, the Twins jumped an Oakland pitcher, treating him rudely from the start. Saturday, they scored four runs in the first inning off Curt Young and won 9-2.
Steve Carlton, the veteran lefthander making his second start since coming to the Twins from Cleveland, got the 329th victory of his career by holding the Athletics to three singles until the ninth. He allowed six hits in 8 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out two.
"That felt good," said Carlton (6-10, 5.59), who threw 74 pitches in eight innings en route to his first victory in nine starts since beating Seattle 9-2 June 20. "I've been throwing a lot of pitches this year, and that's one of the problems I've been having. In the ninth, I did what I've been doing all year, overthrowing and losing control."
Despite Carlton's problems in the ninth, Twins manager Tom Kelly was pleased with Carlton's performance.
"I thought he did an outstanding job," Kelly said. "The guys got him some runs and made it easier for him. He got all his pitches over and changed speeds more than in his last outing. That made his fastball look 100 percent better."
Twins centerfielder Kirby Puckett agreed with Kelly's assessment. "He was going right at the hitters and did his job," Puckett said. "He got us off the field real quickly and gave us chances to swing the bat."
Carlton, who has pitched in the majors for 22 years, was trying for his first complete-game shutout since beating the Chicago Cubs 5-0 Aug. 15, 1983, while with Philadelphia. He lost it in the ninth, however, when Luis Polonia tripled to right-center with one out and scored on Alfredo Griffin's single.
"It was frustrating (losing the shutout)," Carlton said. "I have three complete games, but not a game like this, not a shutout for eight innings. Not even close."
Polonia's triple ended a streak of 12 straight retired Athletics. Kelly pulled Carlton for George Frazier when Carlton walked Steve Henderson with the bases loaded. In his other Twins start, Tuesday at California, Carlton allowed nine runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Puckett got himself back on track at the plate. He had four hits for the first time since June 27, and his homer and two doubles marked the first time this season that he had three extra-base hits in a game. They also were as many as he has had in the previous 11 games combined.
"I'm starting to see the ball better, again," Puckett said. "It's been getting gradually better. I've hit some balls hard the last three or four days, but right at people. Things really clicked out there."
Oakland, which began the series leading the Western Division by less than one percentage point, now is three games behind the Twins.
The Twins, who have the best home record in the majors, have won 23 of their last 28 games at the Metrodome and 36 of 52 for the season. Of their final 50 regular-season games, 28 are scheduled in the Dome. A crowd of 50,237, boosted by an Old-Timers Game earlier in the evening, was the second-largest to watch a Twins game in franchise history except on opening days.
Young walked Dan Gladden to start the Twins first, and Greg Gagne blooped a single to center that dropped just beyond shortstop Griffin's reach. Puckett put the Twins ahead 1-0 by hitting a double off the wall in right field, and Gary Gaetti increased his team-high RBI total to 77 with a triple.
Gaetti's fly ball struck at the base of the wall in left-center, caroming past outfielders Jose Canseco and Polonia. Canseco, the left fielder, finally tracked down the ball in straightaway center. Twins coach Rick Renick appeared to have a thought about Gaetti to try for an inside-the-park homer, but changed his mind as Gaetti neared third.
Tom Brunansky brought him home with a groundout to Griffin. Carlton walked Griffin to open the game, but picked him off before throwing the first pitch to Carney Lansford. Lansford singled, but the next three runners didn't have a successful stay on the bases.
Steve Henderson grounded a single to right that led off the second, but Gaetti started a double play on Tony Bernazard's grounder to third base. Mickey Tettleton walked in the third, but Griffin grounded into a Gagne-Steve Lombardozzi-Kent Hrbek double play. Henderson got another ground single in the fifth and Terry Steinbach grounded into a double play that started when Carlton snagged his one-hopper.
Puckett put the Twins ahead 5-0 in the third when his liner cleared the wall in left for his 17th homer of the season. In the fifth, he hit another double to right and scored when Brunansky blooped a two-out double to right that dropped between Henderson and first baseman Mark McGwire.
Gene Larkin led off the sixth with a single to right and, one out later, reached third base when Young threw a wild pitch and Tettleton, the catcher, bounced a hurried throw into center field. Lombardozzi's sacrifice fly to center put the Twins ahead 7-0. It was the last run allowed by the Oakland starter. It wasn't the last Twins run, however.
Jose Rijo immediately found himself with a runner at second when Gagne hit a single to right and took second when Henderson mishandled the ball for an error. Puckett got an infield single, beating out a grounder to Griffin. Gagne, hustling, sprinted to third on the shortstop's late throw. Gaetti lined out and Brunansky got another RBI on another double to right. Hrbek was walked intentionally and Larkin's sacrifice fly to right put the Twins ahead 9-0.
Gagne made a ninth-inning error on a high hopper by Dwayne Murphy, ending a streak of 31 straight errorless games for the Twins' shortstop.