OAKLAND, Calif. – Brian Dozier smacked a high fly ball into the left field stands at O.co Coliseum on Thursday night, tying the score 3-3 and breaking up Jon Lester’s shutout.
Or so he thought.
“I guess the wind pushed it pretty good. Even after it landed, I thought it was fair,” Dozier said. “I guess not.”
Nope. The ball landed perhaps a foot or two foul, the home run didn’t count, and the Twins’ biggest threat died a few pitches later. Lester retired the first 15 batters he faced, and the final five, too, and recorded his fourth career shutout in the Oakland Athletics’ 3-0 victory over the Twins.
“He was painting,” Dozier said of the A’s new lefthanded ace, who was acquired from Boston at last week’s trade deadline. “Painting the corners, especially [with] that cutter. ... In and out with a cutter is pretty tough.”
Lester has been tough on the Twins before, but he has probably never been as effective as in the past couple of months, which explains why Oakland dealt away their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to get him July 31. In his past 10 starts, Lester has given up 10 earned runs, going 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA — including a 2-1 victory over the Twins in Fenway Park in June — over that time.
“He was really good,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He made pitches when he had to and got out of situations.”
Well, situation, singular. Only in the sixth inning did the Twins manage to put a runner on second base. Lester was perfect through five innings, and didn’t even give up so much as a well-hit ball.
After those 15 up and 15 down, nothing but pop-ups and strikeouts and weak grounders, were the Twins thinking what the rest in the announced crowd of 22,108 starting to think?
“Oh, yeah,” Dozier said. “We even mentioned it, so hopefully we kind of jinxed it there.”
Kurt Suzuki — who got a decent hand as he approached the plate for the first time, a small recognition of his seven years of contributions to the home team — led off the sixth inning by lining a cut fastball into left field, preventing Lester (12-7) from collecting his second career no-hitter.
The Twins mounted an actual threat after Suzuki’s single, with Chris Colabello following Suzuki’s single with one of his own. Lester responded by striking out Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana, but then made what looked like a fatal mistake, a four-seam fastball that Dozier applied plenty of backspin.
“I thought it was pretty much a home run, for sure. [When] it started out, I didn’t think it was going to get it anywhere close to the foul line,” Dozier said. “It’s disappointing. Frustrating to go from very high to very low, really quick.”
Dozier ended up walking to load the bases, but Lester escaped unscathed when Trevor Plouffe grounded out. The Twins managed only one more hit after that.
The A’s collected all the offense they needed against Yohan Pino (1-4). In the third inning, Stephen Vogt hit a shot high into the right-field stands that scored Alberto Callaspo, who had walked, in front of him. The home run not only gave Oakland the lead, but it broke an 0-for-23 slump by Vogt.
Brandon Moss’ slump wasn’t quite as long — just 0-for-18 — but he broke it too, with a leadoff double in the fourth inning. All-Star catcher Derek Norris followed with an RBI double, but Pino and the Twins bullpen didn’t crack again.