Tyler Austin thought it was gone. “I was standing on the top step, telling AD [Ehire Adrianza], ‘He got it, he got it, he got it!’ ”
Paul Molitor thought it might be gone: “It sounded pretty good. But you’re just hoping.”
Eddie Rosario thought it was gone: “I hit it hard. I made good contact with a good swing. And [A’s reliever Jeurys Familia] throws hard — 98. I thought it was out, maybe.”
Eh, but maybe not. Miguel Sano catapulted a ball more than 450 feet into the third deck Saturday and Austin sliced one into the flower beds in right. But Rosario’s seventh-inning blast, with three runs and a late lead, perhaps a victory, riding on it, came down just a foot or two short of the wall in left field, dooming the Twins to their second straight loss to Oakland, 6-2 at Target Field.
Sano’s home run, his 12th of the season, was the most awesome to watch, and Austin’s, also his 12th, is a good sign for the Twins and their new slugger, since it came off a righthander. But Rosario’s near-miss against A’s hard-throwing reliever Familia looked, for about 350 feet, like the game-changer. “Familia’s got tremendous movement combined with velocity,” Molitor said. “Somehow, Rosie put a really good swing on it. Just couldn’t tell if it was going to be quite enough.”
As it turns out, Jonathan Lucroy’s home run was quite enough to carry the Athletics to victory and keep them within striking distance of the Astros in the AL West, with three games between the teams coming up starting Monday. A day after collecting three hits, Lucroy had only two, but both came with two outs, and both drove in runs against Twins rookie Stephen Gonsalves. The first was a line-drive single that brought Chad Pinder home from second, and the latter was a roughly 400-foot blast off the upper deck in left.
Most frustrating about that home run? It came on the first pitch of the at-bat — and Gonsalves knew he was going to swing. Pitching coach Garvin Alston visited the mound just before Lucroy’s at-bat and said, “Hey, he’s swinging [on] 0-0. So what do you want to throw — a changeup or a fastball?” Gonsalves said. “I was locating my changeup pretty well the first couple innings, so I said let’s throw a changeup and hopefully we’ll get him to pop out. It was the only changeup that cut on me. Unfortunately, it came back over the plate and caught barrel.”
It was the only major mistake by Gonsalves in his second career start, though he still put runners on base in every inning. The rookie lefthander gave up seven hits and walked four in five innings — only 48 of his 90 pitches were strikes, a problematic ratio — but experienced no meltdown like last Monday.
“He gave up quite a few hits and bases on balls. He made some pitches at good times, too,” Molitor said. “Incremental improvement is what you’re looking for. I’d have to say that this outing was better than the first one. You just hope the guy starts to feel like he belongs and his stuff can play here.”
Mike Fiers’ stuff plays; the A’s righthander gave up just one run on five hits over 5⅔ innings, though the run was reminiscent of Jim Thome — who was in the park watching.
“I didn’t lose the fact that we’re honoring Jim the way we did tonight, and then we have the mammoth blast from Miggy,” Molitor said. “It kind of went to a place where not many men can go.”