REPORTERS DISCLAIMER: The story in the dead tree edition of Friday's Star Tribune is about the success of he bullpen this season. That story was written well before the bullpen faltered against the A's on Thursday. We try to write an, `early,' to avoid the West Coast deadline crunch.
The following is a report about the game.
La VELLE E. NEAL III
OAKLAND -- It initially looked like two teams were playing out the string on Thursday.
Less than 12,000 fans were in attendance. There was dead grass in center field and a threat of sewage backup in the home dugout. Yet the Overstock.com Coliseum is home to the A.L. West leading Athletics, who entered play with a magic number of five to clinch the division title.
And as the game went on, you began to see why Oakland is in the top spot in the division.
Down 3-2, the A's stormed back to take a lead. When the Twins' youngsters responded, the A's had something for them too.
Coco Crisp then put the Twins away with a two-run homer in the ninth, completing Oakland's 6-4 victory.
``We kept coming back and finally we got a lead and they jumped us right away again,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``Not only did they jump us, they hit them in the seats If we kept them in the ballpark we might have had a better opportunity to win it. I was proud of the guys' effort out there.''
The Twins led 3-2 in the sixth. Reliever Brian Duensing retired the first two batters of the inning but Oakland sent Alberto Callaspo up to pinch hit, and the infielder homered to tie the game at 3-3.
This is nothing new from Callaspo, who has been a pest to the Twins from his days as a Royal and Angel. He's a career .295 hitter against them, but his seven homers against the Twins tie for the most against any opponent.
Crisp singled, and Duensing was lifted for Anthony Swarzak. Josh Donaldson singled to put two runners on first and second. Then Jed Lowrie blasted a three-run homer to right-center on a 1-2 pitch to put Oakland ahead 6-3.
But the Twins didn't roll over.
Oswaldo Arcia hit an opposite-field home run off of Brett Anderson in the seventh to make it 6-4. In the eighth, the Twins got a run off of a fielder's choice and another on Brian Dozier's single off of Lawrie.
Shairon Martis was pitching for the Twins at the time. If they had taken the lead, Casey Fien was warmed up and ready to enter the game. Since it was tied, Gardenhire sat down Fien, who had pitched in three for the past four games. Martis looked good in getting through the seventh. He didn't want to burn Fien. So Gardy took the chance.
And Crisp made the Twins pay.
Trevor Plouffe left the game after striking out in the seventh inning. He's been battling a sore left wrist that goes back to when he was at Class AAA Rochester in May on a rehab assignment.
``I don't think it's anything bad, just a bad swing,'' Plouffe said. ``We iced it and I have full range of motion. Hopefully I come in tomorrow and be able to play. That's what I expect.''
What's really bruised is his pride. Plouffe chased a ball into the expansive foul territory here earlier in the game. He reached the mound in the bullpen, stumbled over it and crashed. The fans roared in delight.
``I looked at the replay,'' he said. ``It looked pretty bad. It could have been a lot worse. I know I'm not the first one and know I won't be the last.''
We'll finish this early-morning report with a stat attack:
- Oakland has won 10 of its last 13 games
- Righthader Dan Straily threw a career-high 106 pitches
- The Twins have lost 11 of their last 16 games
- Oswaldo Arcia is tied for the lead among AL rookies with 13 home runs and 31 extra-base hits
- Josmil Pinto is batting .388 this month