These Oakland A’s are such a buzzkill.
In May, the Athletics short-circuited any brief hope generated by the Twins’ sweep in Seattle by winning all three games at Oakland. So on Monday, was there any chance the A’s would allow the Twins to enjoy their two consecutive victories against the team with the best record in the American League?
Forget it. Cancel the fireworks. The A’s certainly did, again.
The Twins collected only four hits amid the Fourth of July pageantry, pushed across one measly run, and wasted Ricky Nolasco’s strong six innings in a wet-firecracker 3-1 loss at Target Field. It was the Twins’ sixth consecutive loss to Oakland, and their MLB-leading ninth loss this year when giving up three runs.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after his team went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. “You kind of felt like one [run] might not be enough. But we couldn’t find a way to add on.”
Neither did the A’s, not really, which was what was so disappointing to the Twins. Oakland had only one successful inning against the Twins, a three-run uprising in the seventh that knocked Nolasco from the game after he started Monday with six shutout innings. Worst of all: The decisive inning included a baserunning gaffe that the A’s got away with, a popup that fell for a hit in short left field, and what should have been an inning-ending double play undone by a bobble.
“It’s not like the ball was flying all over the place,” Molitor said. “It’s just one of those days where one little hiccup was enough to change the course and outcome of the game.”
With the Twins holding a 1-0 lead, Danny Valencia doubled to lead off the inning, then chose to run to third on a two-hopper to short, normally a fundamental error. “With a good throw, he’s probably out by a fair margin,” Molitor said. But Eduardo Nunez’s throw sailed high, and Miguel Sano tried to slap the tag on Valencia. Umpire Jim Reynolds called him out, but video replay overturned the call.
When Stephen Vogt followed with a single, the score was tied, and Nolasco’s day was over after 110 pitches.
Taylor Rogers struck out Marcus Semien, but then pinch hitter Billy Butler lofted a perfectly placed popup just out of reach of left fielder Eddie Rosario and Nunez, loading the bases. Then Jake Smolinski tapped a fastball up the third-base line, which Molitor wanted turned into two threat-ending outs. Instead, Rogers’ awkward flip to catcher Kurt Suzuki was bobbled, and the Twins only got the force out, giving Coco Crisp a two-out chance with the bases loaded.
Rogers got two quick strikes, but Crisp fouled off a couple of pitches before smacking a hard grounder up the middle, just past Rogers and barely out of reach of Brian Dozier’s dive. Two runs scored, establishing a deficit the Twins could never overcome.
“[We] could have had a double play if we could have exchanged cleanly. And then we get a two-strike base hit with the bases loaded,” Molitor said. “That was pretty much the game.”
Nolasco gave up only four hits over six-plus innings, but Oakland starter Kendall Graveman, who beat the Twins in May, was even better, limiting the Twins to just hits. Graveman walked four batters, but only once did the Twins make him pay. Two walks and Joe Mauer’s single in the fourth inning set up an RBI chance for Max Kepler, who had hit in 13 consecutive games at Target Field.
Kepler didn’t extend that streak — he went 0-for-4 on the day, but he beat the relay on a potential double-play ball, and Mauer scored the Twins’ lone run.
“Not enough offense. Pitching was good enough,” Molitor summed up. “Disappointing loss.”
One of many.